Former Can vocalist Damo Suzuki dead at 74

Damo Suzuki modern portrait wearing a crochet hat and orange anorak
(Image credit: Michelle Highway)

The iconic and celebrated former Can vocalist Damo Suzuki has died, aged 74. The news was reported this morning by Can's record label Spoon Records.

"His boundless creative energy has touched so many over the whole world, not just with Can, but also with his all continents spanning Network Tour," the label said. "Damo's kind soul and cheeky smile will be forever missed. He will be joining Michael, Jaki and Holger for a fantastic jam!"

Suzuki was diagnosed with colon cancer back in 2014, telling Prog two years later "I’ve had an illness for the last two years. In September 2014 I was diagnosed with colon cancer. They operated directly and afterwards they found two holes in my small intestine. So my stomach has no muscles, which means I cannot carry heavy things. That’s why I haven’t done many concerts since then. I’m waiting for another operation later this year, then two or three different surgeries later."

Born in Japan in 1950, Suzuki was famously discovered busking in Munich in 1970 by Holger Czukay and Jakki Liebezeit of Can, who were watching from a nearby cafe, and subsequently asked to replace the recently departed Malcolm Mooney.

Suzuki remained with Can until 1973, arguably the German band's most fruitful period, recording Soundtracks (1970) Tago Mago (1971), Ege Bamyasi (1972) and Future Days (1973), albums on which he developed his iconic, often improvised vocal style.

When he quit Can Suzuki also left the music business, at one point even joining the Jehovah's Witnesses, although he would later leave the organisation, and he returned to music in 1983 with the Damo Suzuki Network and toured prolifically. His most recent album Arkaoda was released in 2022.

Immortalised by UK post-punk's The Fall on their 1985 album This Nation's Saving Grace with I Am Damo Suzuki, he was also a frequent collaborator with other musicians. Suzuki also worked with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez from The Mars Volta and released Live at the Windmill Brixton with 'Sound Carriers' in 2018 with young UK prog trio Black Midi.

Tributes have been appearing on social media since the news broke. Tom Skinner, drummer with The Smile, said on X (formerly known as Twitter), "Grateful that I got to share the stage with him a few years back. An unforgettable experience. What an incredible human being."

Kawabata Makoto of Japanese rockers Acid Mothers Temple said "I could have so many great experiences on this planet! See you in next space!" while Brighton-based musician and writer Hattie Cooke recalled, "Meeting Damo Suzuki is one of my favourite stories. I went to his show but couldn’t see anything. At the end, I was at the bar and chatting away to some bloke about the gig and what he thought of it. Turned out I was talking to Damo. He was way too polite to inform me. RIP."

Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.