Keith Levene, The Clash Co-Founder, Dead at 65

Keith Levene, one of the co-founders of The Clash and a member of Public Image Ltd, has died at 64. According to Deadline, the punk icon had been battling liver cancer at his home in Norfolk, U.K., with author Adam Hammond confirming the death.

"It is with great sadness I report that my close friend and legendary Public Image Limited guitarist Keith Levene passed away on Friday 11th November," Hammond wrote. "There is no doubt that Keith was one of the most innovative, audacious and influential guitarists of all time."

Hammond continued, explaining what motivated Levene musically and how he helped found The Clash alongside Mick Jones. The Sex Pistols set the stage for punk rock, inspiring what would eventually become The Clash. "[Levene] had a major influence on their early sound. So much of what we listen to today owes much to Keith's work, some of it acknowledged, most of it not," Hammond wrote.

"Keith sought to create a new paradigm in music and with willing collaborators, John Lydon and Jah Wobble succeeded in doing just that. His guitar work over the nine minutes of 'Theme', the first track on the first PiL album, defined what alternative music should be," he added, adding that PiL was "the most important band of the age."

Levene got his start as a roadie for Yes in the '70s, later forming The Clash with Jones in 1976. They both put in the effort to get Joe Strummer in the band, and Levene appeared on the group's debut album on the track "What's My Name." He left the group before they kicked into high gear recording music. From there, he met up with John Lydon and formed Public Image LTD, the band Lydon would become known for after The Sex Pistols break up.


Their first album, Public Image: First Issue, landed at 22 on the charts in 1978, with their single "Public Image" making it into the top 10. He would be part of the band's second album in 1979, titled Metal Box, before leaving the group in 1983.

His later career saw him collaborate with artists like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ice T, Tone Loc and others. He also continued as a solo artist, with Violent Opposition in 1989 and Commercial Zone 2014 in the same year. Levene is survived by Kate Ransford, his sister Jill Bennett and her husband. No memorial plans were announced yet.