Jaki Liebezeit, drummer and co-founder of the German krautrock pioneers Can, died Sunday at the age of 78.
The band’s official Facebook wrote of Liebezeit’s death, “It is with great sadness we have to announce that Jaki passed away this morning from sudden pneumonia. He fell asleep peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones. We will miss him hugely.”
Liebezeit, as well as Can’s original vocalist Malcolm Mooney and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley, were scheduled to perform a 50th anniversary concert celebrating Can’s legacy in London this April. “So sorry to hear the news of Jaki Liebezeit’s passing,” Shelley wrote Sunday.
A student of the free jazz scene in Dresden, Germany, Liebezeit co-founded Can in 1968 alongside keyboardist Irmin Schmidt, bassist Holger Czukay and guitarist Michael Karoli; Mooney joined later that year. Exploring the outer reaches of psychedelic rock, the group soon recorded an oft-bootlegged collection of songs that later appeared on their Delay 1968. Their official debut LP, Monster Movie, arrived in 1969.
Liebezeit would soon settle on the repetitive, hypnotic and rigorous drumming style – dubbed motoric – that would become the backbone and trademark of krautrock, with Liebezeit’s steady presence guiding Can through long epics like “Yoo Doo Right,” “Mother Sky” and “Halleluhwah.” Liebezeit’s precision also highlighted tracks like “Vitamin C” and “Moonshake.”
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Liebezeit served as Can’s drummer over the entirety of their 12-album (plus Soundtracks) recording career, stretching from Monster Movie to their string of influential krautrock classics – 1971’s Tago Mago, 1972’s Ege Bamyasi and 1973’s Future Days – up through their final LP, 1989’s Rite Time.
In addition to his tenure in Can, Liebezeit handled drums on Brian Eno’s Before and After Science, the Eurythmics’ In the Garden and multiple albums by Jah Wobble and Neu!’s Michael Rother, as well as his own Drums Off Chaos project.
Rother wrote Sunday following news of Liebezeit’s death, “I am very sad but I feel deep gratitude for his wonderful and unique contributions to our musical world. My thoughts go out to his loved ones. Thank you, Jaki! Your music will stay with us.”