Kraftwerk Founder Florian Schneider Dead At 73

Kraftwerk co-founders Ralf Hütter, left, and Florian Schneider, right.

Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider (1947 – 2020) has died at the age of 73.

In 1970, Schneider and Ralf Hütter founded Kraftwerk in in Düsseldorf, Germany.

In its early days, the group’s music was part of Germany’s so-called Krautrock movement of experimental rock. Their lineup fluctuated, with Hütter & Schneider as the core.

Here’s an example of Kraftwerk performing live in 1970:

Between 1970 and 1973, they released three albums, Kraftwerk 1, Kraftwerk 2 and Ralf & Florian. During this time, the band began to forge a new sound, distancing themselves from a rock format and introducing more electronics.

Here’s a live performance on Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen from 1973, featuring Schneider, Hütter on keyboards and Wolfgang Flür on electronic percussion:

By 1974, Kraftwerk had defined their identity and sound. That year, they released Autobahn, which featured the synths, vocoded vocals and themes that would dominate their music going forward.

The 22+ minute title track is a paean to Germany’s Autobahn highway system, describing through lyrics and music the joy and freedom of a road trip on the modern roadway:

Wir fahren, fahren, fahren auf der Autobahn
We drive, drive, drive on the highway
Wir fahren, fahren, fahren auf der Autobahn
We drive, drive, drive on the highway
Vor uns liegt ein weites Tal
A wide valley lies in front of us

Die Sonne scheint mit Glitzerstrahl
The sun shines with a glittering beam

Autobahn sounded like nothing on the radio, at the time, and became an international success, reaching #25 on the Billboard Top 100.

The success of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn was made possible through the contributions of producer Conny Plank, who is arguably the band’s George Martin, and audio-visual artist Emil Shult, who contributed lyrics, artwork and concepts.

Here’s a live performance of Autobahn from 1975, on The Midnight Special:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4A3jjuCfc5U

Schneider was a member of Kraftwerk through 2008, and helped create the band’s most important albums, includiung Radio-Activity, Trans-Europe Express & The Man-Machine. While the band’s chart success peaked in 1970’s, the late 70’s and early 80’s were arguably their most creative period, and their music from this time period helped spawn whole genres of music, from synth pop to electro.

After Schneider left the group, Kraftwerk continued to perform, but their musical output has focused primarily on remixing their earlier work. Here’s the group’s updated take on Autobahn, as performed live in the group’s 3D shows:

 

Schneider leaves behind a rich legacy of music that has influenced generations of musicians.

23 thoughts on “Kraftwerk Founder Florian Schneider Dead At 73

  1. Sad day – but he left behind so much fantastic music!

    I remember fondly buying the single for Autobahn when I was a kid and it blew my mind!

    Does anyone know if he did music after leaving Kraftwerk?

  2. Saw him live with Kraftwerk in Montreal in 2003. An incredible show visually and sonically, he came out to see us right after the show: a very nice and friendly man. I listen to all kinds of music, but Kraftwerk will always have a permenant place in my discopraphy and for the artists i look up to.

      1. Le Metropolis on Ste-Catherine street. For me, it was the best venue in Montreal. Saw many great shows there: David Bowie (two nights), The White Stripes, Chemical Brothers, Autechre, Rammstein, The Mars Volta, Boards of Canada…

        1. Saw Kraftwerk at Théatre St-Denis, also in Montréal, 1982. Met Florian after the show: he was leaning on a car in front of the venue. I gave him a flyer for my band’s upcoming concert. He said “thank you” and had his legendary enigmatic smile full on. An unforgettable memory…

  3. The four members of Kraftwerk owned a lot to Connie Plank.Especially cash. Anyone unsure of Kraftwerks real legacy should read ” I was a Robot” by Wolfgang.

  4. fun fact: 12 years ago, ralf hutter asked the management of depeche mode if kraftwerk could support dm during their tour of the universe. gore and gahan said no. reason: schneider-esleben´s departure from kraftwerk. they thought kraftwerk without schneider-esleben kraftwerk wasn´t kraftwerk anymore. they were right. just like depeche mode wasn´t depeche mode after alan wilder had left. just like td after froese´s death.

  5. Sorry to hear this, but I always enjoyed his work. Kraftwerk had a lot of influence on Afrika Bambaataa and producer Arthur Baker; their “Planet Rock” triggered hip-hop to a large extent. That era of “krautrock” also influenced Bowie’s ‘trilogy,’ which included “Low.” The crossover effect is still happening today.

    If you want to hear the range of his thinking at the time, look up “Ralf & Florian.” Its a perfect partner with “Cluster & Eno.” There are collaborative ambient pieces, danceable things and a few bits of experimental madness. Both albums are excellent e-music lessons in disguise.

  6. RIP Florian….thank you for all you’ve given to Electronic music….saw you with Kraftwerk several times n I’m very grateful for each n every show…RIP

  7. Dave Greenfield of the Stranglers died yesterday from Covid 19. I believe he is worthy of a Synthtopia post.

    1. Yea i readed about that…i think leaving away that information on this sit is a big mistake…disapointing! |:(

  8. Can the Who be the Who without Pete Townsend and/or Roger Daltrey?
    Can the Rolling Stones be the Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger and/or Keith Richards?

    Even though Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flur left the classic Kraftwerk lineup long ago, it sort of still felt like Kraftwerk because Hutter and Schneider were both still there. When Florian Schneider left, it sort of became like a Who without a Pete Townshend or a Rolling Stones without a Mick Jagger.

    RIP Florian. Not many people can say that they played a part in changing the course of music history.

    1. “Not many people can say that they played a part in changing the course of music history.”
      Well said !

  9. Admin: Personal attack deleted. Keep comments on topic and constructive.

    You’re also using multiple names to comment with (Frank S. Krillkong), which will result in your comments being flagged as spam.

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