Jet Black, the original drummer for 1970s punks The Stranglers, has died at the age of 84, the band has confirmed.
Born Brian Duffy, the musician was a founding member of the Guildford Group and has performed on hits by Golden Brown, Peaches, No More Heroes, and more.
He last performed with them in 2015, announcing his retirement for reasons of his health a few years later.
In an online statement, his former bandmates called him the “elder statesman” of British music.
Bassist and co-frontman JJ Burnell said:
“After years of illness, Jett is finally released. he was a force of nature. Inspiration.
“We wouldn’t have been the Stranglers without him. The most learned of all men. A rebel of many causes.”
Band manager Sil Wilcox added:
“Jet Black was the real deal. Business savvy, talented drummer, and obsessive perfectionist.
“We will cherish the time we spent planning, pranking, eating, drinking, and laughing together on many wonderful nights.”
Formed in West Surrey in 1974, The Stranglers have become an integral part of the raucous British punk and New Wave scene.
A semi-professional drummer in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Black was a successful businessman in his mid-thirties, despite the listless, youthful rage that accompanied the genre.
He owned his fleet of ice cream trucks and owned his license off later called Jackpot. In the early days, the Stranglers used one of his vans as his bus for tours and the store as headquarters. In a 2010 interview with the band’s official website, Black said he never questioned the decision to move away from business and shift his focus to music.
“After making decisions and making commitments, I almost burned the bridge. There was no turning back,” he said. “I told myself that I would succeed anyway.
“There were so many problems now, but my thoughts were focused on how to solve them, not whether I had made the right decisions.”
Supporting US punk stars Ramones and Patti Smith for their UK gigs, The Stranglers’ musical virtuosity stands apart from the more DIY aesthetic of their peers.
The band continued to tour and record after former frontman Hugh Cornwell left in 1990. According to Cornwell’s autobiography, when the drummer called Black to announce his retirement, the drummer’s response was simply “OK, okay.”
On Thursday, Cornwell paid tribute to Black, noting how they shared a “special time” in their lives and pursued their dreams of becoming musicians.
“We were instantly drawn to each other. He had a unique sense of purpose that I identified with,” Cornwell wrote. “He has given up everything in his life to focus on our common goal.”
“The Stranglers’ success was based on his determination and drive…his timing was impeccable.”
In 2007, the band announced that Black was suffering from heart disease and would be temporarily replaced by his drum technician and would cease playing.
He resumed full-time duties on tour with the band in 2010 and 2011, but the following year he fell ill and was hospitalized shortly before performing on stage in Oxford.
The musician, who has struggled with breathing problems since childhood, began to limit his gigs to the UK, but vowed he would “continue until I can’t”.
Although it was difficult to perform towards the end of his career, he remained a fan favorite. Audiences often chanted his name while he was behind Kit until he retired in 2015.
Black has written several books documenting his time with the band. Most notably, the Stranglers’ infamous 1980 arrest in Nice, France, for allegedly inciting riots.
An avid furniture designer, he also patented the Jet Black Power Bass Drum Pedal.
When asked how he would like to be remembered on the band’s website 12 years ago, Black replied:
“I think it’s enough if we remember.”
In a statement, his representatives confirmed that the musician died “peacefully” at his home in the Welsh countryside on Tuesday, December 6.
He is survived by his wife Ava and two children, Charlotte and Anthony. Black’s death comes two years after The Stranglers keyboardist Dave Greenfield passed away at the age of 71 after testing positive for COVID-19.
Greenfield, from Brighton, contracted the virus after being hospitalized for a long time with a heart condition.