Tommy Keene Dies at 59
New wave and power pop singer-songwriter Tommy Keene has died at the age of 59, a post on his website has confirmed. He was best known for “Places That Are Gone,” the title track from his 1984 EP.
Keene first drew attention as guitarist with Washington, DC band Razz, and went on to work with Paul Westerberg of the Replacements, Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices, Velvet Crush, the Goo Goo Dolls and regular collaborator Matthew Sweet, among others.
“Shocked and saddened to report my dear friend Tommy Keene has passed away,” Sweet said in a tweet. “We loved you Tommy! He was a true classic, and a wonderful friend. Long may the music and the man be remembered. His songs are playing in my heart now…”
Asked about the relative lack of success experienced by power pop artists, Keene told LA Record in 2016: “I do think this particular genre is almost too highbrow for a lot of people. There’s nothing really gimmicky about it. It’s not dumbed down. A lot of popular music, there’s always some element of it that’s dumbed down…
“[Power pop] tends to be a little more – probably to its own detriment – just a little purer, and it’s sort of respecting the roots of modern, ‘60s-influenced rock ‘n’ roll. I think that’s why it attracts a lot of geeky fans. People that have worn out their copy of Pet Sounds. But Elvis Costello is power-pop. Cheap Trick is power-pop. Once you get beyond a certain level and sell a certain amount of records, you’ve escaped that world.”
He observed that although he wasn’t “making a lot of money,” he was “making the records for me,” adding: “And if people like it, that’s great. That’s the bottom line.”
The brief message on his website stated: “Tommy passed unexpectedly and peacefully in his sleep. Thank you to all his fans, friend and family who he loved very much.” His discography includes 12 albums, starting with 1982’s Strange Alliance and ending with 2015’s Laugh in the Dark.