Martin Duffy, Felt and Primal Scream Keyboardist, Dead at 55

    Martin Duffy, the keyboardist who played for bands including Felt, Primal Scream, and the Charlatans, has died. According to a post from Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie, Duffy died on Sunday from a brain injury he suffered after falling at his home in Brighton. He was 55.

    Born in Birmingham, England, Duffy grew up in Rednal and joined the cult jangle-pop band Felt in 1985 after responding to a flyer in the Birmingham branch of Virgin records. He remained a member of the band until they disbanded in 1989, contributing to all seven of their albums and becoming an essential part of their sound. After playing on Primal Scream’s first two albums, 1987’s Sonic Flower Groove and 1989’s Primal Scream, Duffy joined the Scottish group as a full-time member just before the release of their seminal 1991 album Screamadelica.

    Duffy went on to play with the Charlatans following the death of founding member Rob Collins, contributing to 1997’s Tellin’ Stories, and joined a supergroup called Chavs with Charlatans’ Tim Burgess and the Libertines’ Carl Barât. He also collaborated with acts like Oasis, Beth Orton, Paul Weller, Heidi Berry, George Clinton, the Chemical Brothers, and more. In 2014, he released a solo album called Assorted Promenades. 

    “Another tragic loss of a beautiful soul,” Tim Burgess wrote on Twitter. “Martin Duffy stepped in to save The Charlatans when we lost Rob – he played with us at Knebworth and was a true friend. He toured with me in my solo band too – he was a pleasure to spend time with. Safe travels Duffy.”

    In his post, Gillespie wrote:

    Hard to write this. We never know how to speak around death other than polite platidudes [sic]. All I want to say is that our soul brother Martin Duffy passed away on Sunday. He suffered a brain injury due to a fall at his home in Brighton. We in Primal Scream are all so sad. I’ve known Martin since he was a teenager in Felt. He played keyboards on every album of ours from the first to the last. Finally joining the band in 1991. Martin was a very special character. He had a love and understanding of music on a deep spiritual level. Music meant everything to him. He loved literature and was well read and erudite. An autodidact. A deep thinker, curious about the world and other cultures. Always visiting museums in every city we played or looking for Neolithic stones in remote places. Opinionated and stubborn in his views. He could play piano to the level where he was feted not just by his peers in British music, but old school master American musicians such as James Luther Dickinson, Roger Hawkins & David Hood & producer Tom Dowd. I witnessed a session at Abbey Rd in 1997 for a Dr John album where his record company had assembled a bunch of young Indie Brit musicians where Mac Rebenac ( Dr John ) seemed bored and uninterested in the session until Martin started playing, then suddenly the good Dr started knocking some funky piano chops and I instantly knew it was because his ears had pricked up when he heard Martin play and the session at last came alive. Martin was the most musically talented of all of us. His style combined elements of country, blues and soul, all of which he had a God given natural feel for. He never played the same thing twice, ever. He was all about ‘the moment’, better have that ‘record’ button on when Duffy was on fire. His timing was unique, funky and ALWAYS behind the beat. George Clinton also dug Martin. I remember a session in Chicago where George said to him ” go to church Duffy !” , and he did. Martin was also in possession of a unique wit. He had a swift eye for the absurd, the surreal and the ridiculous. He lived to laugh and play music. He was loved by all of us in the Scream. A beautiful soul. We will miss him.

    Konstantinos Pappis
    Konstantinos Pappis
    Konstantinos Pappis is a writer, journalist, and music editor at Our Culture. His work has also appeared in Pitchfork, GIGsoup, and other publications. He currently lives in Athens, Greece.

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