Japanese vocalist appeared on krautrock legends' classic albums Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, and Future Days
BY DANIEL KREPS
FEBRUARY 10, 2024
DAMO SUZUKI, THE Japanese singer who served as vocalist for the krautrock legends Can, has died at the age of 74.
The German band announced Suzuki’s death on social media Saturday; while cause of death wasn’t provided, Suzuki had been battling colon cancer for a decade, and revealed in a 2022 documentary that he was previously given a 10-percent chance of survival.
“It is with great sadness that we have to announce the passing of our wonderful friend Damo Suzuki, yesterday, Friday 9th February 2024,” Can said in a statement. “His boundless creative energy has touched so many over the whole world, not just with Can, but also with his all continent spanning Network Tour. Damo’s kind soul and cheeky smile will be forever missed.”
The band added, “He will be joining Michael, Jaki and Holger for a fantastic jam!,” noting members Michael Karoli, Jaki Liebezeit, and Holger Czukay that preceded Suzuki in death.
Suzuki was a teenager when he left his native Japan and began busking in Europe. By chance, he was performing on a street in Munich, Germany when he was spotted by Liebezeit and Czukay and invited to join Can onstage that night; Can’s original singer Malcolm Mooney — who appeared on their 1969 debut Monster Movie — had already left the experimental rock band.
In 1970, Suzuki officially joined Can, first appearing on their Soundtracks song “Don’t Turn the Light On, Leave Me Alone” before serving as lead vocalist on the group’s now-classic run of albums: 1971’s Tago Mago, 1972’s Ege Bamyasi, and 1973’s Future Days. On the first two LPs, Suzuki’s freeform delivery and seemingly stream-on-consciousness lyrics — for example, on “Halleluhwah,” he recites the names of the other songs on the album — punctuated the krautrock grooves.
“I don’t like to play the same piece again and again,” Suzuki told the Guardian in 2022. “Repetition is boring. Every performance should be a unique experience.”
“Damo Suzuki mumbles, chants, and shrieks his way through engulfing Kraut-boogie workouts like ‘Vitamin C’ and ‘I’m So Green,’” Rolling Stone wrote when Ege Bamyasi landed on our list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Following Future Days, Suzuki left Can after marrying a German woman and converting to Jehovah’s Witness, dedicating the next decade to the religion. After leaving the church, he returned to music in 1983 with a project alternately dubbed Damo Suzuki’s Network and Damo Suzuki Band. Although Suzuki remained musically active until his death, he — unlike Mooney — never rejoined Can during their occasional reunions over the subsequent decades.