Keith Levene, founding guitarist of The Clash and PIL, dies at 65

Levene founded The Clash with Mick Jones and Paul Simonon when he was 18 years old.

Keith Levene

Image: Tim Mosenfelder / Getty

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Keith Levene, who was a founding member of The Clash and Public Image Ltd, has reportedly died at 65 from liver cancer in Norfolk, UK.

The influential guitarist’s passing was confirmed by Martin Atkins and Jah Wobble, his bandmates in Public Image Ltd, in statements shared on social media.

“A sad time to learn of the passing of guitar giant Keith Levene. We had our ups and downs that had mellowed over time. My respect for his unique talent never will,” Atkins tweeted on 13 November.

Born Julian Levene in Muswell, London, an 18 year old Levene formed the Clash with Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. Later, he and manager Bernard Rhodes asked Joe Strummer, who was playing with the 101ers at the time, to join the group. Levene co-wrote What’s My Name but left The Clash before the band started recording their first album.

After leaving After the disintegration of the Sex Pistols, Levene and John Lydon founded Public Image Ltd (PiL). His contributions were to the band’s first three albums: First Issue, Metal Box and Flowers Of Romance.

The creation of PiL’s fourth album, This Is What You Want… This Is What You Get, brought creative differences that led to Levene leaving the band in 1983.

Levene moved to Los Angeles in 1985 and continued working on the production end of music. He produced demos for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and worked with DJ Matt Dike to create samples for Ice T and Tone Loc.

In 1989, Levene released his first solo album Violent Opposition with performances from members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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