The guitarist who helped bring the world Whip It, Bob Casale, died suddenly of heart failure on Monday at the age of 61. Casale was involved in the rock band Devo from its inception and was fondly referred to as Bob 2, with co-founder Bob Mothersbaugh being Bob 1. According to statements from Mothersbaugh and Casale’s older brother Gerald, Casale’s death came as a complete shock, indicating the guitarist had not been suffering through any notable illness prior to his passing.
More than just a lead guitarist, Casale also contributed on the keyboard, provided backing vocals, and helped significantly with the audio production process. Gerald Casale described his younger brother as always giving more than he got, while Mothersbaugh called him an integral component of Devo’s sound. Casale was said to be eagerly looking forward to working on future Devo projects, as the band has remained active despite a brief breakup period in 1991.
While few fans of Devo, who have maintained a dedicated cult following over the decades, would associate the younger Casale as the leading figure of the band, his presence was consistent and his influence nonetheless critical. He contributed musically on every album Devo released over the years, and collaborated with Mothersbaugh on a number of projects outside of the band as well. Casale may never have expected to be the focal point of Devo, but the news of his heart failure related death will be a pivotal point in the band’s existence.
The inspiration for the band was rooted in the idea of devolution, a theory that asserts the human race is steadily growing into a less advanced, more brutal species as time passes. Gerald Casale and Bob Lewis, classmates at Kent State University, first talked about the concept in the late 1960s, and became even more familiar with it after meeting Mothersbaugh around 1970. When the Kent State shootings occurred later that year, the trio were deeply affected, and all look back on it is the inciting event behind Devo’s creation.
Originally a medical radiation technologist, Bob Casale was recruited into Devo by his elder brother early in the band’s existence and quickly became entrenched in his supporting role. After the band’s first show in 1973, their popularity continually increased, and they released their most popular song, Whip It, in 1980. By 1984, Casale was taking on a leading role in the sound engineer department for the band’s albums.
As Devo’s success came to a gradual halt in the mid 1980’s, Casale branched out into the music world using his audio production expertise. He helped produce multiple albums for other artists, and would later go on to get involved with music in television shows and movies along with his brother and Mothersbaugh. Although Devo was officially broken up by 1991, they would reappear by the middle of the decade, and have stayed busy since. Most recently, they released an album titled Something for Everybody in 2010.
Casale’s death from heart failure is the second Devo tragedy in less than a year, as drummer Alan Myers succumbed to stomach cancer in June of 2013; he was 58. In passing, Casale leaves behind his unique contributions to Devo’s sound as well his wife, Lisa, and their two children.
By Spencer Hendricks