Best known for his iconic vocals in the innovative NYC synth-punk duo Suicide, Alan Vega died in his sleep on July 16 at age 78. In Suicide, Vega imbued synthesizer wizard Martin Rev’s seething, minimalist compositions with vocalizing that veered from sinister to unnerving to tender with method-actor convincingness. He was Elvis, if Presley were an underworld-dwelling, bohemian Jewish dude who relished onstage confrontation and hailed from the Lower East Side. (Vega also emitted perhaps the greatest “WOO”s in music history.) Lyrically, he was a poet of gnawing desperation and obsession, an unflinching painter of bleak scenarios who could also croon the hell out of a sincere love song. Onstage, he sweated danger and unpredictability.
Suicide’s self-titled 1977 album remains one of the most influential and powerful works of the original punk era. Many have drawn inspiration from its manic, mantric repetition and lean, moving melodies, including Jesus and Mary Chain, Spacemen 3, Loop, Soft Cell, OMD, Depeche Mode, Sisters of Mercy, the Cars, and many more—even Bruce Springsteen. Besides releasing four studio albums with Suicide, Vega had a prolific solo career and was a busy collaborator, releasing records with Alex Chilton and Ben Vaughn, Lydia Lunch and Genesis P-Orridge, Finnish noise-techno minimalists Pan_Sonic, and several others. Below, read super-fan Springsteen's eulogy to the legend and listen to seven of Vega's greatest tracks with Suicide and others. RIP, Alan Vega.
Over here on E Street, we are saddened to hear of the passing of Alan Vega, one of the great revolutionary voices in rock and roll. The bravery and passion he showed throughout his career was deeply influential to me. I was lucky enough to get to know Alan slightly and he was always a generous and sweet spirit. The blunt force power of his greatest music both with Suicide and on his solo records can still shock and inspire today. There was simply no one else remotely like him.