Kevin Coyne


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photograph of Kevin Coyne

Kevin Coyne (born 27 January 1944 in Derby, UK; died in his adopted home of Nuremberg, Germany, on 2 December 2004) was an English musician, singer, composer, film-maker, and a writer of lyrics, stories and poems. His uncompromising attitude towards showbiz fame and fortune always left him in a position of "outsider", a position he relished. The freedom to express himself without the chains of commercial considerations (although he would not have been adverse to a Number One album) helped keep his creativity alive.

Coyne was born in Derby on 27 January 1944 and educated at Joseph Wright School of Art (1957-1961) then Derby College of Art (1961-1965) where he studied graphics and painting, obtaining the N.D.D. in 1965. Early musical influences were Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and later (at art school), Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed.

Coyne's first job was a social therapist at Whittingham Hospital, Lancashire (1965-1968). In late 1968 he moved to London, starting work for the Soho project as a counsellor for drug addicts in 1969. This work was a source for many of his early songs and remains a major influence today.

In 1973 a youthful and idealistic Coyne signed as a solo artist for "Virgin Records" (after a five album spell with Siren on Dandelion Records) proceeding to make eleven LPs over the next eight years. During this period he recorded with the likes of Andy Summers, Zoot Money, Carla Bley (for her album "Silence") and Dagmar Krause. It was a productive time in his career, with tours of Australia, Europe, Canada, the U.S.A. and work in the theatre (the self-composed musicals "Babble" and "England, England"). Life was hectic. Something had to give.

A complete nervous breakdown came in 1981, the main causes being alcoholism and overwork. After leaving "Virgin Records," he created a succession of dark, brooding albums for the label "Cherry Red."

The year 1985 was one of big changes. Coyne left London and resettled in Nuremberg, Germany. The move was a good one, resulting in formation of a German group (The Paradise Band), a fresh recording career and a drastic change in life-style. He quit drinking for good in 1987. Ten albums had been recorded in Germany. The musical future continued to look bright and positive.

Kevin Coyne's writing, painting career had truly blossomed in Germany. Four books had been published with one still in print. (Two, "Show Business" and "The Party Dress", were published by "Serpent's Tail" in London) and numerous exhibition of his visual work have been mounted throughout Europe. The response to his work has often been reassuringly strong. Exhibitions in Berlin, Amsterdam, and Zurich were particularly well reviewed and attended.

Since the mid-eighties the irrepressible Coyne had instigated and been involved in numerous special projects. "Burning Head" (1992) for instance, was a limited edition of one thousand CDs, sold with an exclusive Coyne original picture for each record. "The Adventures of Crazy Frank" (1995) which evolved from a record into an improvised stage musical about the life of English comic Frank Randle featuring Coyne as Randle and Nuremberg dancer, singer Julia Kempken as his wife was performed in Germany and Austria.

"Tough and Sweet" (1993) is a free wheeling collection of over twenty rock and blues influenced songs that just happens to be the first ever Coyne album to use the talents of his musical sons, Robert and Eugene.

"Knocking on Your Brain" is a double album, recorded in Duisburg late 1996 and utilizes the writing and musical talents of top German musicians Ali Neander (Rodgau Montones, Xavier Naidoo), Tom Liwa (Flowerpornos), Ralf Gustke (Gianna Nannini) and Willy Wagner (ex Rio Reiser). Special guest on the CD is guitarist Gary Lucas, formerly with the Magic Band, Jeff Buckley, Joan Osborne (he was nominated for a Grammy Award for his writing on her record), Nick Cave, Lou Reed, and Leonard Bernstein. His slide guitar playing and arrangement of the opening track "Wonderland" is a delight, as are Kevin's vocals, lyrics and improvising. The 20 songs that make up the CD were recorded in just three days.

The years 1998 and '99 had seen Coyne recording and touring constantly. His CD, "Sugar Candy Taxi," included the playing and songwriting talents of his sons Robert and Eugene. A new touring group developed (no longer called the Paradise Band) that featured Robert Coyne on guitar and keyboards with Steve Smith on drums. The 1999 touring schedule included the U.S., Germany, Switzerland, and Holland as well as other locations. Reception was excellent throughout. The change to a new record label in 1999 - from Rockport to Ruf Records - appeared to be a very positive move. With "Sugar Candy Taxi," his first release for Ruf Records, Coyne immediately reached a larger international audience.

Beginning in 2000, the following recordings were released - some posthumously:
• Room Full of Fools (2000)
• Life is Almost Wonderful (with Brendan Croker) (2002)
• Carnival (2002)
• Donut City (2004)
• One Day In Chicago (with Jon Langford) (2005)
• Underground (2006)

Diagnosed with lung fibrosis in 2002, Coyne died peacefully at his home.
He is survived by his wife Helmi and his sons Eugene, Robert and Nico. Read more about Kevin Coyne on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

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1944-01-27 to 2004-12-02

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