Martin Duffy (Primal Scream, Felt) dies at 55
Longtime Primal Scream keyboardist Martin Duffy, who also played in Felt in the mid/late '80s and was briefly in The Charlatans in the '90s, has died at age 55. Primal Scream vocalist Bobby Gillespie said in a statement that he suffered a brain injury due to a fall at his home in Brighton. Bobby's full statement reads:
Hard to write this. We never know how to speak around death other than polite platidudes. All I want to say is that our soul brother Martin Duffy passed away on Sunday. He suffered a brain injury due to a fall at his home in Brighton. We in Primal Scream are all so sad. I've known Martin since he was a teenager in Felt. He played keyboards on every album of ours from the first to the last. Finally joining the band in 1991. 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 & David Hood & producer Tom Dowd. I witnessed a session at Abbey Rd in 1997 for a Dr John album where his record company had assembled a bunch of young Indie Brit musicians where Mac Rebenac ( 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. 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.
The Charlatans leader Tim Burgess wrote, "Another tragic loss of a beautiful soul. 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. Safe travels Duffy 💔"
Martin joined Felt when he was just 17, and just in time for Forever Breathes the Lonely Word, what many consider to be the band's best album, and his organ is the defining sound of that record. (That's also him on the cover of the album.) He has also contributed to Primal Scream's first two albums and when Felt broke up in 1989, he joined them full time right when they were reinventing themselves for the rave renaissance. His keyboard playing is central to 1991's landmark Screamadelica, and every record they've made since.
Martin also played alongside Tim Burgess, The Libertines' Carl Barât, and others in the supergroup The Chavs, he released the solo album Assorted Promenades on Tim Burgess' O Genesis label in 2014, and he contributed to Bobby Gillespie's 2021 album with Savages' Jehnny Beth, Utopian Ashes, as well as music by Oasis, Beth Orton, The Chemical Brothers, and more.
Rest in peace, Martin.