The Left Banke’s Steve Martin Caro Dead At 71

Steve Martin Caro, singer for ’60s psychedelic pop hitmakers the Left Banke, has died. As Brooklyn Vegan points out, the Left Banke announced on Facebook that Caro died on Tuesday night. No cause of death has been revealed. Caro was 71.

During the Left Banke’s heyday, Caro recorded simply as Steve Martin, but he was born Carmelo Esteban Martin Caro; his mother was the flamenco guitarist Sarita Heredia. The Left Banke formed in New York in 1965, and they quickly signed to Smash Records, a subsidiary of Mercury. The band’s sound was a lush and ambitious take on rock, full of busy string arrangements. It was an early version of the psychedelic pop that would become hugely popular over the next few years.

The Left Banke’s debut single, 1966’s “Walk Away Renée,” was a huge hit, peaking at #5 in the US. The follow-up “Pretty Ballerina” was also major, making it to 15. But the band was inactive by the time their debut album Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina came out in 1967, and keyboardist Michael Brown put together a new version of the band, which featured the future TV star Michael McKean on guitar, to tour. This briefly led to two competing versions of the Left Banke, but the original band got back together later in 1967 and kept recording for a few years, though without the same level of success. The band broke up and reunited a number of times over the years.

In the years since, the Left Banke became a big inspiration for a number of psychedelic, power-pop, and orchestral pop artists. Belle And Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, for one, has always been a big fan. Their records have been covered by people like Alice Cooper, Richard Thompson, Marshall Crenshaw, the Eels, the Dickies, John Mellencamp, and Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, and they’ve been sampled by the Folk Implosion and Jens Lekman.

Below, check out a few videos of the Left Banke: