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Tommy Keene, Power-Pop Singer-Songwriter, Dies at 59

Variety logo Variety 11/24/2017 Jem Aswad

Singer/Songwriter Tommy Keene performs at City Winery Nashville on July 28, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. © Rick Diamond Singer/Songwriter Tommy Keene performs at City Winery Nashville on July 28, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Tommy Keene, a veteran singer-songwriter of the new wave and power-pop eras best known for his 1984 alternative-radio hit “Places That Are Gone,” died Wednesday, according to a post on his website.

The post gives no cause of death and simply states: “Tommy Keene 6/30/58 – 11/22/17. Tommy passed unexpectedly and peacefully in his sleep.  Thank you to all his friends and family who he loved very much.”

Over the years he collaborated with a number of stylistically similar artists ranging from Guided by Voices’ Robert Pollard — with whom he released an EP as the Keene Brothers, a joke that would be lost on all but certain people of a certain age — and T Bone Burnett (who produced one of his early albums) to the Goo Goo Dolls and Matthew Sweet, with whom he toured just a few weeks ago. He generally remained true to the melodic, chiming, harmony-filled, Byrds-influenced rock that launched his career.

A native of Maryland, Keene released a dozen albums over the course of a career that stretched back to the late 1970s, yet his biggest hit came from the title track of a 1984 EP on the indie Dolphin Records, “Places That Are Gone.” A deal with the major label Geffen Records ensued and he released two albums on the label, “Songs From the Film” in 1986 and “Based on Happy Times” three years later. He signed with indie powerhouse Matador in the mid-1990s and released two albums there as well; the remainder of his catalog was released on smaller indie labels.

Below is the official video for “Places That Are Gone,” and a clip of him performing Matthew Sweet’s 1991 hit “I’ve Been Waiting” with Sweet and the Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs in Los Angeles in August.


Related slideshow: Remembering stars we lost in 2017 (via Photo Services)

Singer Johnny Hallyday arrives at the premiere of "Rules Don't Apply" during the opening night of AFI FEST 2016 in Hollywood, California, U.S. November 10, 2016. In Memoriam 2017: Stars We've Lost This Year

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