Can’s Jaki Liebezeit 1938-2017 R.I.P.

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Influential drummer helped create that classic motorik Krautrock beat.

By Fred Mills

Yesterday (Jan. 22) the world lost another member of legendary Krautrock pioneers Can. Drummer Jaki Liebezeit died of natural causes, at the age of 78; the band’s guitarist, Michael Karoli, died in 2001.

Can’s official Facebook wrote “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.”

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Can got together in 1968 featuring Liebezeit, Karoli, keyboardist Irmin Schmidt, and bassist Holger Czukay; during their first several years the band included vocalists Malcolm Mooney and then Damo Suzuki. For his part, Liebezeit had come out of the German jazz scene and he had a huge influence on Can’s overall sound, which was highly rhythmic and trancelike at times (see: “motorik” beat: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorik).

And in addition to appearing on all of Can’s albums, he formed his own side projects, among them Phantomband and Club Off Chaos, while also playing on records by Neu!’s Michael Rother, Brian Eno, Depeche Mode, Jah Wobble, and Burnt Friedman.

On a personal note: I interviewed Jaki in 1999 for a lengthy Magnet magazine piece on Can (I interviewed the other three members as well). I found him to be more than gracious, willing to suffer through my fanboy trivia questions, and more than happy to provide crucial information about Can and about his own career. Watch BLURT shortly for a republishing of that Can story, and meanwhile, check out some choice live clips of the band during its early ’70s heyday.

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