Devo Guitarist and band co-founder Bob Casale died yesterday from heart failure. The announcement came from his brother Gerald Casale who posted to the group’s Facebook page earlier today. Gerald posted that his brother Bob Casale “was there in the trenches with me from the beginning.”
Devo was formed in Akron, Ohio in 1972 by two sets of brothers which included Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh, and Bob and Gerald Casale. At the time, Bob had been studying to become a medical radiation technologist. The brothers were inspired to start the band after witnessing the 1970 Kent State massacre. The band’s name “Devo” comes from their concept of “de-evolution” while their songs and popular videos revolve around the idea that mankind is capable of “devolving.” The band received widespread popularity when they released their hit song “Whip It” which was released in their Freedom of Choice album in August 1980. The song’s famous music video, which featured Marks Mothersbaugh whipping the clothes off of a woman, cost $15,000 of the band’s own money to produce and was played frequently on MTV in 1981. “Whip It” peaked at number 11 on the Canadian Singles Chart and number 14 on US Billboard Hot 100.
Bob Casale, was born on July 14th, 1952 was one of the band’s founding members. His brother Gerald described him as his “level-headed brother” who was always “giving more than he got.” Casale played in the band’s every album, playing a key role in each song’s production.
Devo continued playing until they broke up in 1991. They reunited in 1996, and continued to tour for twenty years. The band recently released their album Something For Everybody in June 2010. The band had plans to return to performing on stage.
Casale’s death, which has been linked to heart failure came as a “total shock,” Gerald said in his announcement. Bob had two children with his wife Lisa, a daughter, Samantha, and a son, Alex. Casale’s death follows that of Alan Myers, former Devo drummer and percussionist, who passed away in June 2013. Devo singer Mark Mothersbaugh released a statement describing Casale as “a great friend” and that he will “miss him greatly.”
The band’s songs served as inspiration for many other new-wave era artists in the time. The band’s music video “Whip It” was one of the first videos to premiere on MTV, and was frequently played in the rotation of videos. Popular artist Lady Gaga has cited the band as an influence for her work. When questioned about Lady Gaga in an interview, Mothersbaugh explained, “She’s part of something we were at the beginning of.” Other bands, like Nirvana and Soundgarden, have acknowledged Devo as their influence. After news of Casale’s death broke the news, guitarist Tom Morello tweeted that Casale was “hugely influential” to him.
While Bob Casale played a key role in the band’s success, he also worked as a music consultant on many TV shows, like Rugrats. News of Casale’s death from heart failure comes as a shock to his family and the rest of the music community influenced by Devo’s work.
By Tyler Shibata