Alan Vega / June 23, 1938 - July 16, 2016

Born today was Boruch Alan Bermowitz, multi-media artist, photographer, gallery owner, vocalist, electronic music pioneer and punk icon better known as Alan Vega. His electronic/punk duo Suicide (with Martin Rev) was a thing of ugly, simplistic beauty, and one of the first bands to describe themselves as "punk" in the early '70s. They were pioneering, exciting and controversial.

He grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and was into rock & roll in its early days and studied art in college. An artist of electronic light sculptures and found objects, he was also involved with the radical Art Workers' Coalition. After seeing The Stooges live in '69 he decided to do music, calling himself Alan Suicide. Around 1970 he opened a downtown gallery space called Project of Living Artists, featuring some jams by early punk characters. This is where he met the free-jazz pianist Martin Rev and they formed Suicide, one of the first bands to describe themselves as "punk". Their 1977 full-length debut remains an underground classic.

After Suicide's initial split in '79, Vega's first solo album had the 1980 hit (in France) "Jukebox Babe". He held a rockabilly influence in a good amount of his solo music. Suicide would get back together on occasion to record and tour, in addition to a long solo career that produced over twenty albums. All told, he has worked with Lydia Lunch, Ric Ocasek, Pan Sonic, Genesis P-Orridge, Alex Chilton, Al Jourgenson and his wife Liz Lamere, among others. His music has been cited by Bruce Springsteen, Big Black, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Daft Punk, Sonic Youth, Massive Attack and others as major influence. To the surprise of many, he was actually ten years older than people previously thought. Vega on Suicide: “Our philosophy was that the one thing Suicide was never going to do was entertain.”

Tagged: Alan Vega, avant-garde, Celebrate Icons, classic albums, Martin Rev, noise, NYC, punk, rock, rockabilly, Suicide

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