Florian Schneider, who co-founded the seminal German electronic band Kraftwerk in 1970 and went on to become a godfather of genres including synth-pop, hip-hop, electronic dance music and post-rock, has died. Schneider was 73.
One of the most important musicians of the computer age, the artist died after what his longtime bandmate Ralf Hutter described as a short bout with cancer.
It’s hard to overstate the ways in which Kraftwerk co-founders Schneider and Hutter transformed popular music. The New York Times once wrote that “what the Beatles are to rock music, Kraftwerk is to electronic dance music.”
That may be an understatement. As technological advances created electronic music instruments such as the Moog synthesizer, Schneider and Kraftwerk harnessed that energy to create simple, robotic rhythms that celebrated the sheer weirdness of these new sounds. The band’s breakthrough was the 1974 album “Autobahn,” a worldwide smash that electronically simulated the experience of cruising down a German highway.
The band issued a string of albums across the 1970s that upended pop music. 1977’s “Trans Europe Express” became one of Kraftwerk’s most identifiable songs, and was later harnessed by pioneering rap artist Afrika Bambaata to create the 1982 smash “Planet Rock.”
Kraftwerk’s beats and textures can be found in Detroit techno, Chicago house and pretty much any track with a four-on-the-floor electronic rhythm. Among others, Schneider’s compositional skills can be heard on classic Kraftwerk songs including “Neon Lights,” “Computer World,” “Pocket Calculator” and “Tour de France.”
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