Through the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been shown that no one is exempt, rich or poor. For us music fans, most notably, we lost John Prine and Adam Schlesinger to this illness. On May 3, us fans of 70s British punk lost Dave Greenfield, keyboardist for The Stranglers. That sentence alone reveals the seminal nature of the Surrey-based quartet. Unlike their punk comrades, the band actually employed a keyboardist. Greenfield was often compared to The Doors’ Ray Manzarek, whom he claimed he hadn’t heard prior. Original singer and guitarist, Hugh Cornwell tweeted “I am very sorry to hear of the passing of Dave Greenfield. He was the difference between The Stranglers and every other punk band. His musical skill and gentle nature gave an interesting twist to the band.”
Within the band’s music, he was known for his fast runs and creative uses of sound and synths. Greenfield wrote the most recognizable parts of the band’s biggest hit, Golden Brown. A member of the band for 45 years, Greenfield had already been admitted to the hospital with heart problems when the pandemic took hold.
The Stranglers were a fundamental band in my musical upbringing. Among all the Brit punk bands I loved as a moody black-clad teen, they stood out most. Aggressive and raw, bawdy and direct, it wasn’t the band’s workmanlike drumming from Jet Black or angular guitar slashes from Cornwell that made me fall in love with them. First and foremost, the thumping bass of JJ Burnel and the inventive playing by Greenfield is what made the Stranglers such an important band to me.
I saw them on their last North American tour in 2013. Apart from Greenfield’s playing, what I’ll never forget is the one-handed keyboard solo he took while chugging a beer with the other.
RIP Dave Greenfield. I know that few people have any awareness of The Stranglers, so here’s your introduction