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Tommy Keene (1958 – 2017), singer-songwriter was a favorite among power pop rock fans

Getty Images / Rick Diamond

Tommy Keene (1958 – 2017), singer-songwriter was a favorite among power pop rock fans

Tommy Keene, critically acclaimed power pop musician, died on Wednesday November 22, 2017, at the age of 59, according to the Washington Post

His partner, Michael Lundsgaard, said Mr. Keene died in his sleep. The cause is not yet known. 

Keene was a power pop cult hero during his four decade career. He released 12 solo albums of driving jangly melodic guitar pop songs that seemed destined to be radio classics. He received many accolades for his music but remained relatively unknown.  

Keene was considered to be a top songwriter with a great sense of melody, his songs containing memorable hooks. 

His music was influenced by the Beatles, the Byrds, and the Who. In turn, he influenced many power pop bands including Teenage Fanclub and Fountains of Wayne. 


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Keene was born in Evanston, Illinois and was raised in Bethesda, Maryland. He formed the band the Rage while at the University of Maryland and moved on to the new wave band the Razz, who opened for the Ramones. 

Keene released his first solo album in 1982 called “Strange Alliance.” His breakthrough came in 1984 with the EP “Places That Are Gone.” The title track was a minor hit which resulted in Keene getting signed to major label Geffen Records. 

He released two albums for Geffen during the 1980’s which received high praise from critics but did not sell well. Dropped by Geffen, he continued to release solo albums popular with power pop fans. His last album released was “Laugh in the Dark” in 2015. 

Keene was highly regarded by his fellow musicians, playing with Paul Westerberg of the Replacements, Matthew Sweet, and the Goo Goo Dolls. 

In 2006, Keene talked about his career with the Washington Post. 

“I’ll entertain the idea all the time of ‘God, how much longer can I keep doing this?’ “At the end of the day, I always want to go back in and make another record and try again and see if I can do it this time, see if I can crack it. Maybe this time it will be different.” 

Another power pop favorite, Mathew Sweet, who toured earlier this year with Keene, paid tribute on social media. 

“Shocked and saddened to report my dear friend Tommy Keene has passed away. 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.” 

Survivors include his partner, Lundsgaard of Los Angeles; his father, Robert Keene, and stepmother, Dorothy Keene, both of Bethesda; and his brother. 

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