Watching the lists of famous people who died in 2016, there is one name often missed and yet we know a lot of people who mourn after Alan Vega. He was the prince of 21st-century disco magic and the shadow king of electro-punk.
The binary politics of his music is to move with the rhythm and rise from the blue. Alan Vega’s music is eternal, it is a beat out of this universe and music brought from another galaxy’s past so that we can dance to it in the future.
He was born Alan Bermowitz in 1938 and was raised in Brooklyn. Until he turned 70, it was thought that he was ten years younger because of a mistake in the 2005 book “Suicide: No Compromise”, where 1948 is stated as the year of his birth. Elvis Presley was “his man”, inspiring Alan Vega in the best possible way to create what he did – music that is too cool to be called art.
He enrolled at Brooklyn College where he studied both physics and fine art under Ad Reinhardt and Kurt Seligmann, graduating in 1960. In 1969 he became part of the Art Worker’s Coalition – a radical group of artists, filmmakers, writers, critics, and museum staff that formed in New York City and harassed museums, once barricading MOMA.
Alan Vega’s imagination preceded the vision of that of American Society. His creativity was merciless and his paintings, installations, sculptures, and music seized his cruelly sincere mind. He called himself Alan Suicide and in the early 1970’s he exhibited his light sculptures, many of which were constructed of electronic debris, at an artist-run 24-hour multimedia gallery at 729 Broadway in Manhattan.
At the same time, along with Martin Rev, he formed the two-person band known as Suicide. Their music turned the music scene upside down, the music itself wasn’t ready for Suicide. Alan Vega and Martin Rev created PunkRock years before the term was officially recognized. Their first album “Suicide” is among the sacred pieces of American music.
No need to go back to dates where Alan Vega did this or that. He created relentlessly. But the most important thing for Alan Vega was, that despite time pressure, prejudices, money, and corruption, he always did whatever he wanted. And only whatever he wanted. He lived to create.
When asked about God he stated, “I distrust the name ‘God’ but, yes, I do believe in a higher power, God is in all of us,” he says, before deciding: “There is an immense power, there has to be.” He also shared the views of Spinoza, the pantheist philosopher.
In 2012, Vega suffered a stroke after which he wasn’t able to perform for some time. He had to slow down his artistic and music projects until his short come back in 2016. But his comeback might as well have been a goodbye as he passed away soon after. Vega died in his sleep on July 16, 2016, at the age of 78.
His death was announced by musician and radio host Henry Rollins, who shared an official statement from Vega’s family on his website. Alan Vega is outlived by his wife Liz and son Dante.