Devo guitarist Bob Casale, who played with the group alongside his brother Gerald from the original incarnation of the groundbreaking Akron new wave band in 1973 all the way through their recent tours, died suddenly on February 17th of heart failure. He was 61.
“As an original member of Devo, Bob Casale was there in the trenches with me from the beginning,” Gerald said in a statement. “He was my level-headed brother, a solid performer and talented audio engineer, always giving more than he got. He was excited about the possibility of Mark Mothersbaugh allowing Devo to play shows again. His sudden death from conditions that lead to heart failure came as a total shock to us all.”
Though he often ceded the spotlight to his brother Gerald and Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh, Bob Casale played on every single album and was instrumental in their production.
The original members of Devo grew up in Akron, Ohio, and were inspired form a band after personally witnessing the Kent State massacre in 1970. “We came of age in the middle of a huge cultural war. This country was basically in the midst of a new civil war — the lines were drawn very clearly,” Bob Casale said in a 2012 interview with Under the Radar. “[We formed the band because] it was a more immediate way of self-expression that required less money and no outside permission. You try to make a film and you have to come up with the money, you need a big crew, you need to ask people for favors and get permission. If you have an idea for a song you can pretty much go into your basement with your band mates and do it.”
Devo broke up in 1991, but reformed five years later and toured steadily over the past two decades. They released Something for Everybody in 2010, their first album in 20 years. “We wanted to be Devo again,” Bob Casale said. “And so you can’t help but sound like Devo – we weren’t going to try and sound like anybody else, we were just going to do what we do and try and write good songs with the same kind of attention to lyrical content and song structure as we’ve always given all of our work.”
Bob is survived by his son, Alex, his daughter, Samantha, and his wife, Lisa.