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Primal Scream Keyboardist Martin Duffy Dead at 55

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Primal Scream keyboardist Martin Duffy has died at the age of 55.

In a statement, Duffy’s family confirmed he suffered a brain injury after a fall and died as a result of his injuries.

“He was loved by his mother, brothers, wider family and close friends. Everyone who knew Martin loved him; he was the real deal, our shining star.”

Posting on Twitter, his bandmate Simone Butler, Primal Scream’s bassist, said: “No words x i miss u already Duff. This is the saddest day and i’m tears writing this. So loved x”

She added in a statement to Rolling Stone UK: “He was one of the best. Truly a genuine and beautiful soul in this world . He was so funny, kind, thoughtful and so naturally talented , it was a joy and an inspiration to play with him and it was an honour to call him a friend . I’m heartbroken and i know anyone who knew and love him is . I feel lucky to have known and worked with him.”

In a lengthy tribute shared on Instagram, Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie said: “Hard to write this. We never know how to speak around death other than polite platidudes. All I want to say is that our soul brother Martin Duffy passed away on Sunday. He suffered a brain injury due to a fall at his home in Brighton. We in Primal Scream are all so sad. I’ve known Martin since he was a teenager in Felt. He played keyboards on every album of ours from the first to the last. Finally joining the band in 1991. Martin was a very special character. He had a love and understanding of music on a deep spiritual level. Music meant everything to him. He loved literature and was well read and erudite. An autodidact.

“A deep thinker, curious about the world and other cultures. Always visiting museums in every city we played or looking for Neolithic stones in remote places. Opinionated and stubborn in his views. He could play piano to the level where he was feted not just by his peers in British music, but old school master American musicians such as James Luther Dickinson, Roger Hawkins & David Hood & producer Tom Dowd. I witnessed a session at Abbey Rd in 1997 for a Dr John album where his record company had assembled a bunch of young Indie Brit musicians where Mac Rebenac ( Dr John ) seemed bored and uninterested in the session until Martin started playing, then suddenly the good Dr started knocking some funky piano chops and I instantly knew it was because his ears had pricked up when he heard Martin play and the session at last came alive.

“Martin was the most musically talented of all of us. His style combined elements of country, blues and soul, all of which he had a God given natural feel for. He never played the same thing twice, ever. He was all about ‘the moment’, better have that ‘record’ button on when Duffy was on fire. His timing was unique, funky and ALWAYS behind the beat. George Clinton also dug Martin. I remember a session in Chicago where George said to him ” go to church Duffy !” , and he did. Martin was also in possession of a unique wit. He had a swift eye for the absurd, the surreal and the ridiculous. He lived to laugh and play music. He was loved by all of us in the Scream. A beautiful soul. We will miss him.”

The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess – previously a bandmate of Duffy – wrote: “Another tragic loss of a beautiful soul.”

Duffy, who was born in Birmingham, scored his first musical break when he joined the indie group Felt at the age of 16 before they signed with Creation Records.

He went on to become Primal Scream’s lead keyboardist after Felt split in 1989 and stayed with the group for over 30 years, his distinctive keys heard on classic albums such as 1991’s seminal Screamadelica.

His last contribution came on their most recent album Chaosmosis in 2016, while more recently, he joined up with frontman Bobby Gillespie on a number of solo projects – including his 2020 album Utopian Ashes with Savages singer Jehnny Beth.

Paying tribute, Tim Burgess recalled how Duffy stepped up to play keyboards for The Charlatans when they supported Oasis at Knebworth in 1996, mere weeks after keyboardist Rob Collins died in a car crash.

“Martin Duffy stepped in to save The Charlatans when we lost Rob – he played with us at Knebworth and was a true friend,” Burgess’ statement said.

“He toured with me in my solo band too – he was a pleasure to spend time with. Safe travels Duffy.”

Duffy also collaborated with a wide array of artists, including Paul Weller, The Chemical Brothers, Beth Orton, Steve Mason, and more recently, Jessie Buckley, on the soundtrack to the 2018 film Wild Rose.

DJ Justin Robertson added: “Waking up to the news about Terry Hall and Martin Duffy. The cycle of life and death is cruel at times and these two had so much more to give to the world. Thank you for the music,memories and the inspiration that will live on long after all faulty and fallible flesh fails. X”

From Rolling Stone UK. Subscribe to the magazine in print and receive complimentary access to the digital edition.

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