No Wave Icon James Chance Dead At 71

No Wave Icon James Chance Dead At 71

James Chance, the No Wave icon who served as the saxophonist and singer of the Contortions and Teenage Jesus And The Jerks, has died. He passed away in New York, his brother David Siegfried announced. He was 71.

Though a cause of death has not been revealed, the musician — born James Siegfried — experienced a decline in health over recent years. Siegfried and his longterm partner Judy Taylor set up a GoFundMe in 2020 for “personal health issues and the COVID situation.” Taylor passed shortly after, and Siegfried was hospitalized last year.

Siegfried was born in Milwaukee in 1953. He began playing piano at his Catholic elementary school, then picked up saxophone at 18. In 1975, he moved to New York and started using the name James Chance. He joined Teenage Jesus And The Jerks after meeting Lydia Lunch at CBGB, and then formed the Contortions in 1977. They became a polymath of the downtown NYC’s no wave scene, and Siegfried was known for his confrontational performances in which he started fights with audience members, including rock critic Robert Christgau.

The Contortions released Buy in 1979 and were renamed James White And The Blacks for the 1980 followup Off White, which featured Lunch and Robert Quine, and the band’s appearance in Glenn O’Brien’s Downtown 81. A different lineup of the band later shared the LPs Sax Maniac and Melt Yourself Down. Contortions reunited several times since their breakup, and Chance appeared on albums from artists including Debbie Harry, the False Prophets, and Kirin J. Callinan. His last performance took place in March 2019 in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Pat Place, the original Contortions who later founded the Bush Tetras, said, “I’m so sad to hear of James’ passing. Working with him in the early days of the Contortions was a roller coaster ride of fun, creativity and insanity. His loss is a great one for the downtown community and the music world.”

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