Damo Suzuki, the Japanese vocalist who served as the lead singer of German krautrock icons Can from 1970 through 1973, has died at the age of 74. Can’s label, Spoon Records, revealed the news on Instagram, writing, “His boundless creative energy has touched so many over the whole world, not just with Can, but also with his all continents spanning Network Tour. Damo’s kind soul and cheeky smile will be forever missed.” No cause of death was disclosed, but Suzuki had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 2014.
Born on January 16, 1950 in Japan, Suzuki left his native country as a teenager and began busking in Europe. After stumbling upon one of his performances outside a Munich café, Can’s Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit invited Suzuki to perform with the group that night. He formally joined Can in 1970, replacing original frontman Malcolm Mooney, and appeared on a classic run of albums: 1971’s Tago Mago, 1972’s Ege Bamyasi, and 1973’s Future Days.
Suzuki left Can in 1973 to marry his girlfriend and converted to Jehovah’s Witness, leaving music for a decade to dedicate to the religion. He started performing again in 1983, playing shows as Damo Suzuki’s Network. He put out several Network and solo releases over the decades, including 2018’s Live at the Windmill Brixton with ‘Sound Carriers’ featuring black midi. In 2019, he published the memoir I Am Damo Suzuki, co-authored with Paul Woods, and his battle with cancer was the subject of the 2022 documentary Energy.
“After the illness I had for three long years, you’re simply happy to be here breathing air,” Suzuki told MOJO in 2018. “I feel I’m very thankful to all people in front of me from the stage. You think, can I get a better thing than this? Life is so, just good. You can go like a locomotive train and go straight, keep on going and reach the next station, and then to another station… this is never-ending. This is all peoples’ dreams, to be never-ending.”
Among the artists who have posted tributes to the influential musician in the wake of his death include Tom Skinner of the Smile and Sons of Kemet, American Football‘s Mike Kinsella, The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess, Geoff Barrow of Portishead and Beak>, Massive Attack, HEALTH, Matmos’ Drew Daniel, Elijah Wood, Bo Ningen, and producer David Wrench.