The Wire

The world's greatest print and online music magazine. Independent since 1982


Jaki Liebezeit has died

Can drummer and founder member died on 22 January aged 78

Can drummer and founding member Jaki Liebezeit has died. “It is with great sadness we have to announce that Jaki passed away this morning from sudden pneumonia,” read the announcement on Can's Facebook page. “He fell asleep peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones. We will miss him hugely.”

Born in Dresden on 26 May 1938, Liebezeit started his career as a free jazz drummer in the early 1960s when he joined The Manfred Schoof Quintet. As Julian Cope explains it in his 1995 publication Krautrocksampler: One Head's Guide To The Great Kosmische Musik – 1968 Onwards, the words of “some kind of freak” had a momentous affect on his drumming style. “The ‘freak’ had slagged Liebezeit for playing free jazz, and said: ‘Why do you play that shit? You must play monotonously.’ Those words stayed with him forever. Liebezeit had never heard the word 'monotonously' used in a positive way before, and the pealing bells of truth shot through him. He changed his drum style immediately, and it was with this concept of monotony that the drummer entered lnner Space. He, in turn, chided Holger Czukay for playing too much bass, and insisted that he try to play bass with ‘only one tone’.”

Inner Space would soon become Can, or The Can, the group so named by their first vocalist proper, Liebezeit’s American friend Malcolm Mooney. Though the Cologne based band went through numerous line-up changes and reincarnations, Liebezeit was always a core member. He was already 30 when he, Irmin Schmidt, Czukay, David C Johnson and Michael Karoli formed the group in 1968. In 1980 Liebezeit became a member of Phantom Band and worked with Jah Wobble (along with Czukay) on the 1981 LP How Much Are They? and the following year’s Full Circle. Liebezeit also collaborated with Philip Jeck, Pierre Bastien and Jac Berrocal, among others, He was set to appear alongside Mooney, Schmidt and Thurston Moore in The Can Project at The Barbican in April.