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Damo Suzuki: Can free-floating singer brought us some of the most exotic rock music of the 1970s


timeGerman band Can, its former singer Daruma Suzuki dies at 74, were innovators in many ways, but especially because the band featured two of the most original rock singers of all time. While their 1969 debut album Monster Movie featured the machine-gun poetic style of American expatriate Malcolm Mooney, it was the soul of Japan’s liberal Kenji “Damo” Suzuki, who in 1971 Their adventurous spirit was best seen on three stunning studio albums between 1973 and 1973.

A 1971 television clip from the long-running German series Beat Club shows guitarist Michael Karoli, drummer Jaki Liebezeit, bassist Holger Czukay and keyboardist Irmin Schmidt — all dressed in bright psychedelic colors — methodically circling the song Paperhouse Abstract rhythms are combined. A minute into the jazz improvisation, the camera suddenly cuts to Suzuki’s extraordinary figure, slender, with his hair down and shirtless. He sings in rhymeless blank verse, often indecipherable, sliding freely between similarly-sounding words—but the tender, thoughtful longing is palpable. By the end, you finally hear the line clearly: “You can do whatever you want with your mind.” The sense of endless possibility in Suzuki’s lyrics perfectly echoes Can’s adventurous spirit – his origins are partly in the West. De Art World – His fluid wordplay was at the heart of some of the strangest and most exotic rock music of the 1970s.

If it sounds like he’s making it up as he goes, that’s exactly what he and the band like. He arrived in Europe in 1968 and spent several years wandering from a commune in Sweden to the Irish countryside, stopping in France along the way. Germany Rob Young documented this period in Britain in his Can biography All Gates Open, busking, painting and playing guitar along the way. Around the time of his appearance in the Munich stage production of Hair, he met Czukay and Liebezeit by chance. Suzuki was doing some kind of jam session on the street, and Can wanted a singer to do a four-night residency at the city’s Blow Up club. Suzuki asked if there would be rehearsals; when he heard there wouldn’t be, the deal was well done.

Can, second from the right is “Damo” Suzuki Kenji. Photo: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy

In Suzuki, Can found a versatile and elusive frontman. His abstract lyrics allowed him to seamlessly weave in and out of long songs at a time when the band was broadening their horizons and working extensively on film scores. Suzuki is a riddler who delivers wild, bombastic can riffs like the 14-minute “Mother Sky” (“I say madness is as pure as the mother sky”) and “Halleluwah” (“Looking for my brother, Yes, I am” ), which speaks of mysterious wisdom. His playful, sometimes innocent lyrics – which, like Syd Barrett’s, often resemble nursery rhymes – also fit miraculously into the context of more popular songs, such as “Moonshake” and the 1971 German hit ” Spoon” (“Oh, sit in my chair, no one wants to care”).

The three studio albums Can and Suzuki produced together – 1971’s Tago Mago, 1972’s Ege Bamyasi and 1973’s Future Days – chart a sharp arc from mystical rock to From intricate funk fusions to multi-layered tonal drifts, these records can be considered as not only marking the creative peak of West Germany’s fantastic rock scene in the 1970s, but also gradually gaining the attention of adventurous indie music communities around the world – Perhaps most notable are the adventurous 1990s post-rock scenes in the US and UK, the contemporaneous European electronica movement, and British post-punk institution The Fall.

Suzuki left Can as suddenly as he joined them, storming out during a recording session in 1973 when he began to show more interest in esoteric Christianity than music. In the decades since, he has often downplayed his years in the band, preferring to explore the creative possibilities of his next project rather than mythologize his past. He does it through will, letting actions speak louder than words. Suzuki Daruma’s networkis a global fraternity of local musicians who spontaneously jam with him until the very end as he passes through town.

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