Alan Vega of the electronic protopunk group Suicide died in his sleep on Saturday at the age of 78.
The world found out about Alan’s passing on Henry Rollins’ website where he published a statement from Vega’s family:
With profound sadness and a stillness that only news like this can bring, we regret to inform you that the great artist and creative force, Alan Vega has passed away.
Alan passed peacefully in his sleep last night, July 16. He was 78 years of age.
Alan was not only relentlessly creative, writing music and painting until the end, he was also startlingly unique. Along with Martin Rev, in the early 1970’s, they formed the two person avant band known as Suicide. Almost immediately, their incredible and unclassifiable music went against every possible grain. Their confrontational live performances, light-years before Punk Rock, are the stuff of legend. Their first, self-titled album is one of the single most challenging and noteworthy achievements in American music.
Alan Vega was the quintessential artist on every imaginable level. His entire life was devoted to outputting what his vision commanded of him.
One of the greatest aspects of Alan Vega was his unflinching adherence to the demands of his art. He only did what he wanted. Simply put, he lived to create. After decades of constant output, the world seemed to catch up with Alan and he was acknowledged as the groundbreaking creative individual he had been from the very start.
Alan’s life is a lesson of what it is to truly live for art. The work, the incredible amount of time required, the courage to keep seeing it and the strength to bring it forth—this was Alan Vega.
Alan is survived by his amazing family, wife Liz and son Dante. His incredible body of work, spanning five decades, will be with us forever.
Vega was born Alan Bermowitz and was raise in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. He graduated from Brooklyn College in 1960 with degrees in physics and fine art.
Throughout the 60’s, he was part of the Art Workers’ Coalition which regularly protested against museums and were known to occupy and barricade themselves inside to protest. As an artists, he began as a painter but eventually move to sculpture using the name Alan Suicide. Using discarded electronic parts, he works became well known enough that they were on display in galleries for a number of years.
In August 1969, Vega saw a show by The Stooges which got him interested in the world of music. He became friends with Martin Reverby and the two, along with guitarist Paul Liebgott, formed the band Suicide.
At first, the band only played in galleries as more of an art statement but they eventually branched out into music venues such as CBGB and Max’s Kansas City.
They released their first album, Suicide, in 1977 and followed with four more full length albums, finishing with 2002’s American Supreme, two EP’s and a number of live albums. Their first works were not received overly well by critics but they have gone on to be considered as extremely influential in the worlds of industrial rock and dance music.
Both members of the band also recorded solo with Vega making his debut in 1980 with Alan Vega. Between ’80 and 2010, he released over fifteen albums along with three compilations. In addition, he authored three books and saw a resurgence in interest in his art works in the early 2000’s.
In 2012, Vega suffered a stroke but he continued to produce new art pieces, mainly paintings, and recorded a vocal for French singer Christophe’s latest album.