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Florian Schneider, German Electronic Music Pioneer With Kraftwerk, Dies at 73

Co-founder and keyboardist for the influential group died of cancer

Florian Schneider, a keyboardist and co-founder of the German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, has died after a short battle with cancer, a representative for the band told TheWrap. He was 73.

“Kraftwerk co-founder and electro pioneer Ralf Hütter has sent us the very sad news that his friend and companion over many decades. Florian Schneider has passed away from a short cancer disease just a few days after his 73rd birthday,” the band said in a statement.

Schneider and Hütter formed up in 1968 at the Academy of Arts in Remscheid, where they performed improvisational music together before founding Kraftwerk in 1970. Together their avant-garde, Kraut rock sounds, especially their seminal 1974 album “Autobahn,” helped shape the sounds of synth pop and rock groups in the ’80s and beyond.

Kraftwerk Portrait Session

NEW YORK – CIRCA 1975: German electronic group Kraftwerk (L-R Karl Bartos, Ralph Hutter, Wolfgang Flur and Florian Schneider in front) pose for a portrait circa 1975 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Maurice Seymour/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Schneider was a multi-instrumentalist who originally used the flute as his main instrument, distorting it with fuzz, wah and other effects before moving on to synthesizers, loud speakers other experimental tools. On “Autobahn,” Kraftwerk was able to create looping, immersive soundscapes of songs, even songs like the title track “Autobahn” that could take the shape of an entire side of an album. The album and an edited version of the song was a hit internationally, and the group even won a special lifetime achievement Grammy in 2014 for their work.

In 1970, Hütter and Schneider founded the electronic Kling Klang Studio in Düsseldorf where all of Kraftwerk’s albums were conceived up through 2003’s “Tour de France.” Schneider formally left the band in 2008 and did not perform on the band’s tour that year.

David Bowie especially was an admirer of Schneider and Kraftwerk’s music. Kraftwerk’s 1977 album “Trans-Europe Express” was inspired by Bowie’s “Station to Station,” and then Bowie named his song off “Heroes” “V2-Schneider” after the Kraftwerk pioneer. Other followers of Kraftwerk have included bands such as Talking Heads, Stereolab, Eurythmics, Depeche Mode, Devo and many more.

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