Bob Casale, a founding member of the transformative Ohio new wave band Devo, has died at age 61, TMZ reports. Casale, a guitarist, died Monday due to sudden health problems that led to heart failure. His brother Gerald, a fellow Devo member, gave TMZ this statement: “As an original member of Devo, Bob Casale was there in the trenches with me from the beginning. He was my level-headed brother, a solid performer, and talented audio engineer, always giving more than he got.”
Although your average American knows Devo only for the 1980 single and early MTV hit “Whip It!”, the band was one of the best and strangest musical forces out of the Midwest throughout the ’70s and ’80s. After forming around Kent and Akron in the early ’70s and honing their unique and bizarre identity, they released 1978’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, one of punk’s great debuts. From there, they continued cranking out quirky, subversive albums and performance art up through their 1991 breakup. They slowly regained steam in the mid-’90s, releasing a handful of one-off songs for various projects and touring when they pleased, before coming together for their first album in 20 years, Something For Everybody, in 2010.
Along the way, they racked up a formidable legacy. Devo were visionaries who didn’t quite fit into any one crowd. Their surrealist sci-fi persona brought a jolt of weirdness to the mainstream but never conformed to the stereotypes of the underground. They preached that humanity was devolving long before Idiocracy and tweaked “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction)” long before Cat Power. Their social commentary was insightful, funny, and provocative. They often opened their own concerts under the guise of a satirical Christian rock band called Dove, The Band Of Love; they appeared as Dove in the televangelism spoof Pray TV. As recently as 2012 they were cleverly skewering Mitt Romney for leaving his dog on top of a moving car in the song “Don’t Roof Rack Me Bro.” They were pioneers of music video even before their iconic Energy Dome hats entered the picture, dating as far back as the clip for their 1977 single “Jocko Homo.” While the world around them slowly declined, they always continued to evolve.
Casale becomes the second founding Devo member to die within the past year after original drummer Alan Myers succumbed to stomach cancer last summer.