Kraftwerk founder Florian Schneider dies at 73

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Ralf Hütter (left) and Florian Schneider were Kraftwerk’s founders and core members

Florian Schneider, co-founder of highly influential electronic pop group Kraftwerk, has died at the age of 73.

The German quartet set the template for synthesiser music in the 1970s and 80s with songs like Autobahn and The Model.

They achieved both musical innovation and commercial success, and inspired scores of artists across genres ranging from techno to hip-hop.

Schneidder formed the group with Ralf Hütter in 1970, and remained a member until his departure in 2008.

A statement said he “passed away from a short cancer disease just a few days after his 73rd birthday”.

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Kraftwerk performing live in 1981

The long list of artists to have been influenced by Kraftwerk included David Bowie, who named the track V-2 Schneider on his Heroes album after Schneider; as well Depeche Mode, New Order and Daft Punk.

Coldplay used a section from Kraftwerk’s Computer Love in their hit Talk, while Jay-Z and Dr Dre borrowed from Trans Europe Express for their track Under Pressure.

Afrika Bambaataa sampled them on one of the groundbreaking early hip-hop tracks, 1982’s Planet Rock.

Even Kraftwerk’s image was mechanical – during the 1970s, they began to portray themselves as robotic figures, dressed identically and standing in a row behind keyboards on stage.

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Kraftwerk on stage in 2005

With striking album covers adding to their visual impact, their artistic as well as musical identity led to a series of acclaimed residencies in galleries like New York’s Moma and the Tate in London in the 2010s.

Schneider had left by that time. He and Hütter were famously elusive, but Hütter told The Guardian in 2009: “He was not really involved in Kraftwerk for many, many years.”

‘The electronic Beatles’

Analysis by Mark Savage, BBC music reporter

The US and the UK are often considered the twin crucibles of pop music but, thanks to Kraftwerk, Dusseldorf has an equal claim on the title.

During the mid-70s, the band’s allegiance to what they called “robot pop” set the sonic template for everything from hip-hop to house music via EDM and techno.

In some quarters, they were dubbed “the electronic Beatles”, and it’s hard to disagree.

Electronic music had existed before, of course – from the musitron solo on Del Shannon’s Runaway to the mind-expanding Doctor Who theme, recorded by the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop in 1963.

But Kraftwerk developed a new musical vocabulary, sculpting hypnotic, low-frequency sounds that celebrated Europe’s romantic past, and looked forward to its shimmering future.

On albums like Trans-Europe Express and Man Machine, the quartet connected “the coldness of circuitry and the warmth of the soul”, wrote music critic Garry Mulholland, “reminding us that machines are, after all, the product of the dreams of humans”.

Among those who took notice were David Bowie, who borrowed their industrial atmospherics on Low; and Afrika Bambaataa, who borrowed the icy riff from Trans-Europe Express to power one of rap’s earliest anthems, Planet Rock.

“They started it all,” said Pet Shop Boy Chris Lowe in 1990.

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