Like many people, I learned about Holger Czukay’s passing on Twitter. A fan posted a link to his collaboration with David Sylvian, Flux & Mutability. It’s a long-time favourite. My original vinyl pressing is still in good condition, and by coincidence, I had pulled it for a listen on Friday. Seeing the album cover in a tweet made my heart sink a little. I knew what it meant.
It seems we’ve had more than our share of artistic losses in the last couple of years. Many of the great musical influences of our time – Lou Reed, David Bowie and the rest – have reached that point where life catches up. There will be plenty of sad tweets in the months and years ahead.
Czukay is a fine example of a talent whose outsized influence represents a far-reaching legacy. Drummer for the much-admired German act Can, he evolved into a collaborator sought after by a particular segment of the music world’s best.
To those of us growing up in the 1980s, he was a member of a revered older generation. We may not have understood his importance in detail, but we knew he mattered more than we could explain. Any record with his name on it was instantly credible.
It’s often said that when someone as accomplished as Czukay passes, it is important to celebrate his or her life. Hard to argue with that. But if you’ve genuinely grieved for someone important to you, you know that’s easier to suggest than to see through.
Still, something heartening happens when we lose greats like Czukay. Music is such a personal art form. That’s particularly true when you favour less well-known performers. Over time, we tend to forget that anyone else in the world shares our passion.
Those Czukay-Sylvian records on my shelf may as well have been recorded for my exclusive personal enjoyment. On Friday, I couldn’t have imagined that anyone else on the planet was listening to the same thing.
By the end of the long weekend, Twitter and all the rest were flooded with tributes and expressions of love and respect. That’s not only a reminder of Czukay’s extraordinary contributions. It’s a reminder that we’re not alone in our admiration for him.