Tommy Keene, the influential singer-songwriter with a sharp ear for power-pop who emerged in the New Wave era and went on to work with admirers including R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, Paul Westerberg of The Replacements, and Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard, died in his sleep Wednesday night, according to an obituary posted to his official website. He was 59.
Keene “passed away unexpectedly, but peacefully” at his Los Angeles area home, according to his site.
After playing guitar in a string of Washington, D.C.-area bands in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Keene released his solo debut, Strange Alliance, in 1982. He followed that up two years later with his breakthrough EP, Places That Are Gone, which made him a college radio staple, landed him on the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop poll and earned him a deal with Geffen Records.
Keene would go on to release albums through the ’90s and well into the 2000s. In the mid-90s, he toured with Velvet Crush, and joined Westerberg’s band during the Eventually era. He also worked with Pollard in a couple different projects after the initial breakup of GBV. Keene’s final studio album was 2015’s Laugh in the Dark, and he spent much of last year opening for Matthew Sweet.
Below, check out some of Keene’s music — and see friends’ and fans’ reactions to his death.
I am devastated to hear that Tommy Keene has died. He was the best singer of our generation, in my opinion. And one of the good guys of rock. Rest in peace, pal. (This picture is from my Wild Honey show in March.) pic.twitter.com/gh0rXeDswN
— Peter Holsapple (@PeterHolsapple) November 24, 2017
Shocked and saddened to report my dear friend Tommy Keene has passed away. We loved you Tommy! He was a true classic, and a wonderful friend. Long may the music and the man be remembered. His songs are playing in my heart now… pic.twitter.com/fy2u9yNWxu
— Matthew Sweet (@iammatthewsweet) November 24, 2017
I am absolutely devastated to hear that Tommy Keene has left us. The last time we shared a stage was 7 or 8 years ago at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco with @sallycrewe. We missed each other by a day this past September. He will be missed. pic.twitter.com/dkssgZKH6s
— Ted Leo (@tedleo) November 24, 2017
— Guided By Voices (@_GuidedByVoices) November 24, 2017
— Richard Barone (@RichardBarone) November 24, 2017
God, no. Hearing that Tommy Keene has died.
— Joe Pernice (@JPernicious) November 24, 2017