We were saddened to learn that Florian Schneider, co-founder of Kraftwerk, passed away yesterday at the age of 73. According to Ralf Hütter, his creative partner who started the band in 1970, stated in his announcement that Schneider had been battling an aggressive form of cancer.
The importance of Kraftwerk on modern music cannot be denied. In the 1970s, their music sounded positively futuristic. In 2020, their music still sounds amazingly futuristic. While Schneider retired from the band in 2008, he was and will remain the heart of the band.
For yours truly, we came to know and love Kraftwerk via their unique remix greatest hits album, The Mix. Released in 1991, it offered up their best-loved songs. Though a greatest hits album, the versions on it weren’t mere re-records. In some cases, they rearranged songs completely. The equipment used simply didn’t exist two decades prior, resulting in the music remaining futuristic. However, nothing about The Mix sounds forced or like a retread; if one didn’t know the band, one might have assumed this a contemporary group.
My love for Kraftwerk stems from the 500 miles I would drive to the university I attended. A long trip on empty, often bleak interstate highways–is there a better band for such a setting? I think not! I had a cassette copy of the album that was essential listening for every trip. The one or two times I made the journey without it, I definitely missed its presence. It offered me mechanical relief. And it sounded damned amazing cranked up to maximum volume whilst driving eighty miles an hour. Furthermore, when driving through a large metroplex, the music tapped into the vibe of the commercial sprawl outside my window. Though driving through Dallas or Midland, outside sure felt like Berlin or Stuttgart to me!
For me, this version of “Radioactivity” remains my favorite, because the song began side two of the cassette version of The Mix. Hearing it meant only one thing: the trip was now thirty minutes shorter, meaning I’d killed a half hour from my eight hour journey. As a result, I felt relief knowing my destination was just a few miles closer. Even today, the song still fills me with that sense of eagerness and happiness, nearly thirty years later.
RIP Florian Schneider.