His partner Keith Levine, founding guitarist for both the Clash and Public Image Ltd, has died Kate Ransford and the author Adam Hammond has been confirmed. “It is with great sadness that I have been informed that my close friend and legendary Public Image Limited guitarist Keith Levine has passed away on Friday 11th November.” chirp Hammond. “Our thoughts and love go out to his partner Kate, his sister Jill and all of Keith’s family and friends. The world is a darker place without his genius. I would be an even darker place without my soulmate.” Levine was 65.
Born Julian Keith Levine on July 18, 1957 in London, England, he fell in love with music as a child and gravitated towards ska, Bruges rock, and the Beatles. He began playing guitar in his teens and became obsessed with Yes, praising Steve Howe as “the greatest guitarist in the world”. Levine wandered after attending the Yes concerts and gradually began to crawl upstage to break gear, offering to help with the tour. When he turned 15, Levine got a job on the road for Yes to clean Alan White’s cymbals and change the trap on the close to the edge a tour. When Levine tried out to join the crew on Rick Wakeman’s next solo tour, Wakeman—noticing Levine constantly playing instruments but being slow to set them up—convinced him to give up being a roadie and try playing music instead.
When he was sixteen, Levin visited West London and met Mick Jones for the first time. The two became instant friends and decided to start a band together. It is known that Levine and Bernard Rhodes, manager of the Jones London SS band, persuaded Joe Strummer to leave his band the 101ers to join the Clash. “[We] I talked Joe into coming to sit me in Shepherd’s Bush,” Levine explained. “I was playing guitar with him and playing some 101 notes. He said, ‘Hey man, I just love you and I love the way you play the guitar.'” So I said, “Would you do that?” And we got him into the Clash.” After screwing in guitarist Paul Simonon and drummer Terry Chimes, they officially debuted the Clash in July 1976.
In September 1976, Clash fired Levene, claiming he was no longer interested in the project. Before they parted ways, Levine co-wrote a few songs with the Clash, one of which (“What’s My Name”) would appear on their self-titled debut album.
In 1978 Levine and John Lydon formed Public Image Ltd, utilizing Jah Wobble to play bass and Jim Walker on drums, and released their debut album, General picture: first issue. He soon established his own rocking playing style and what would define him as a guitarist. “What happened to me was that when I became good enough to know the rules, I didn’t want to be like any other guitarist,” Levine said in an interview. “I didn’t do my best to be different. I only had an ear for what was wrong. So if I did something wrong, ie make a mistake or do something that wasn’t key, I was open enough to listen to it again.”