The Stranglers announced Greenfield’s death on their website, writing that he tested positive for COVID-19 on April 26 after a prolonged hospital stay due to heart problems.
The Stranglers originated in 1974 during the height of the U.K. punk scene and quickly went from playing pubs to opening for The Ramones and Patti Smith during their first British tours. Though The Stranglers started out with a different keyboardist, Greenfield joined the band within its first year and shaped the band’s sound with his unique playing style.
Indeed, simply having a keyboardist at all was unusual for punk bands of the time, but Greenfield’s distinctive use of organ and synthesizers would have set the band apart in any rock era. The Stranglers experimented with an array of different styles over the years and have remained active since their inception, even having to postpone their farewell tour due to the pandemic.
In 1982, Greenfield wrote the band’s biggest hit, “Golden Brown,” which reached No. 2 on the U.K. singles chart and won an Ivor Novello award. Greenfield also contributed backing vocals to many of the band’s tracks, and sang lead on early cuts such as “Dead Ringer,” “Do You Wanna?,” “Genetix” and “Four Horsemen.”
The band, which currently consists of guitarist and lead vocalist Baz Warne, bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel and drummer Jet Black, paid tribute to Greenfield on their website.
“We have just lost a dear friend and music genius, and so has the whole world. Dave was a complete natural in music,” Black wrote. “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.”
The Stranglers’ original lead vocalist and guitarist, Hugh Cornwell, took to Twitter to express his sentiments.
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. (1 of 2)
— Hugh Cornwell (@HughCornwell) May 4, 2020
“He was the difference between The Stranglers and every other punk band,” Cornwell wrote. “His musical skill and gentle nature gave an interesting twist to the band.”
Greenfield is survived by his wife, Pam.