Martin Duffy, whose keyboard playing was integral to the sound of popular U.K. bands Primal Scream and Felt, has died from a brain injury suffered during a fall. He was 55.
Duffy joined Felt as a teenager and his organ work is heard prominently on the band’s 1986 album Forever Breathes the Lonely World (a photo of him also appears on the cover). Duffy played on Primal Scream’s first two albums while still in Felt, and when the latter act split following 1989’s Me and a Monkey on the Moon, he became a full-time member in time for the influential 1991 release Screamadelica.
Duffy later played briefly in the Charlatans following the 1996 death of member Rob Collins. “Another tragic loss of a beautiful soul,” Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess wrote of Duffy. “Martin Duffy stepped in to save the Charlatans when we lost Rob — he played with us at Knebworth and was a true friend. He toured with me in my solo band too — he was a pleasure to spend time with.”
Throughout his career, Duffy also performed and/or recorded with Oasis, the Chemical Brothers, Beth Orton, and solo albums by both Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie and Burgess.
“Hard to write this,” Gillespie said on Instagram. “We never know how to speak around death other than polite platitudes. Martin was a very special character. He had a love and understanding of music on a deep spiritual level. Music meant everything to him. He loved literature and was well read and erudite. An autodidact. A deep thinker, curious about the world and other cultures. Always visiting museums in every city we played or looking for Neolithic stones in remote places. Opinionated and stubborn in his views. He could play piano to the level where he was feted not just by his peers in British music, but old school master American musicians such as James Luther Dickinson, Roger Hawkins and David Hood, and producer Tom Dowd. I witnessed a session at Abbey Road in 1997 for a Dr. John album where his record company had assembled a bunch of young indie Brit musicians. Dr. John seemed bored and uninterested in the session until Martin started playing, then suddenly the good Dr. started knocking some funky piano chops and I instantly knew it was because his ears had pricked up when he heard Martin play and the session at last came alive.”
“Martin was the most musically talented of all of us,” he continued. “His style combined elements of country, blues, and soul, all of which he had a God-given natural feel for. He never played the same thing twice, ever. He was all about ‘the moment.’ Better have that ‘record’ button on when Duffy was on fire. His timing was unique, funky and ALWAYS behind the beat. George Clinton also dug Martin. I remember a session in Chicago where George said to him, ‘go to church, Duffy!,’ and he did. Martin was also in possession of a unique wit. He had a swift eye for the absurd, the surreal, and the ridiculous. He lived to laugh and play music. He was loved by all of us in the Scream. A beautiful soul. We will miss him.”