Stranglers' Dave Greenfield dead at 71 after contracting coronavirus - music world pays tribute

Dave Greenfield in 1978
(Image credit: Fin Costello / Getty Images)

Stranglers keyboard player and punk legend Dave Greenfield has died at the age of 71. The news was confirmed by the band, who said that Greenfield had tested positive for COVID-19 a week ago while in hospital for heart treatment.

"We are deeply and profoundly saddened to announce the untimely passing of keyboard legend Dave Greenfield on the evening of 3rd May 2020," a statement on Facebook reads. "Following a stay in hospital for heart problems, Dave tested positive for the COVID-19 virus last Sunday but he sadly lost his battle last night. 

"Dave had been an ever present in the band since joining in late 1975 and his keyboard wizardry was world-renowned over his 45 year career in The Stranglers. Dave was a lovable, friendly and eccentric character who always had time to chat."

The statement went on to include tributes from fellow Stranglers Jean-Jacques Burnel, Jet Black and Baz Warne.

“On the evening of Sunday May 3rd my great friend and longstanding colleague of 45 years, the musical genius that was Dave Greenfield, passed away as one of the victims of the Great Pandemic of 2020," said Burnel. "All of us in the worldwide Stranglers’ family grieve and send our sincerest condolences to Pam.” 

“We have just lost a dear friend and music genius, and so has the whole world," added Black. "Dave was a complete natural in music. Together, we toured the globe endlessly and it was clear he was adored by millions. A huge talent, a great loss, he is dearly missed.”

Vocalist Baz Warne said, “We lost a true innovator, musical legend, and one of my dearest friends today. The word genius is bandied around far too easily in this day and age, but Dave Greenfield certainly was one. We stood together on the same side of the stage for 20 years, laughed, joked and shared our lives in the way that only band mates can. I'll miss him forever."

Dave Greenfield was born in Brighton in 1949, and played in local prog rock band Rusty Butler before joining The Stranglers in late 1975, a year after they formed in Guildford, and went on the play on all the band's classic albums and hit singles. 

Greenfield's swirling keyboard sound was a huge part of the band's sound and success, a factor not lost on bassist Burnel, who told Rick Wakeman about the way Golden Brown, the band's international hit from 1982, was written.

"’l'll tell you something about Golden Brown that I’ve never told anyone before," he said. "It actually developed out of a prog rock suite. We were recording the La Folie album, and Hugh [Cornwell, original Stranglers singer] and I were pissed off because we seemed to be writing all the songs. 

"So we said to Jet and Dave: 'Right, you two are going to write a song. We’re off to the pub. Have it written when we get back'. We fucked off to the pub all afternoon. Now, with Dave being a prog rocker and Jet being a jazzer, when we got back they presented us with this six-part piece of music. 

"And we were like: 'Fucking hell, we can’t record this'. We went: 'Don’t like that bit… don’t like that… oh, wait a minute, we could something with that'. And the part we did like formed the basis for Golden Brown."   

Hugh Cornwell has paid tribute to Greenfield, saying, "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. He should be remembered as the man who gave the world the music of Golden Brown."

Other tributes have come from Wilko Johnson, who wrote, "Very sad news. RIP Dave Greenfield. Thoughts are with his loved ones, and Stranglers family one and all", while Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess tweeted, "Goodbye Dave Greenfield. Your sound has been a huge influence on our band and in my life too."

Echo & The Bunnymen simply tweeted,"RIP Dave Greenfield, can’t believe this," while Icicle Works man Ian McNabb just said, "He was a toiler on the sea. Dave Greenfield 1949 - 2020. Rock In Peace."

The Damned's Captain Sensible wrote, "While showing me round the pub he owned Dave Greenfield was in the process of hiding his menagerie of pet rats owing to the food hygiene inspectors coming to check the place over later that day. “Give me a hand Cap or the bastards will close me down”. RIP Dave." 

Black Star Riders and Thin Lizzy frontman Ricky Warwick said, "So sad. I grew up seeing The Stranglers many times. A wonderful band with fantastic songs and an attitude second to none. Dave Greenfield’s keyboards were a unique, intimidating and huge vibrant part of that sound."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.