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TOMMY KEENE,
1958-2017

Tommy Keene, the singer-guitarist with a keen melodic sense who came of age during the power pop movement of the early ‘80s, died in his sleep at his Los Angeles home Wednesday. He was 59. 

His 1984 six-song EP Places That Are Gone (Dolphin) established him with critics, college radio and indie rock artists: The Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll named it EP of the Year.

It led to him signing with Geffen, releasing Songs From the Film in 1986, and followed it up with 1989’s Based on Happy Times before moving to Matador. He would release a dozen albums in his career, the last being 2015’s Laugh in the Dark.

Raised in Bethesda, Md., he got his start in the D.C. area, coming to national prominence in the band The Razz.

As his career progressed his admirers became collaborators: He toured and recorded with Paul Westerberg and was a touring member of Robert Pollard’s The Ascended Masters and Boston Spaceships. Most of the last year was spent opening shows for Matthew Sweet.

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

On Twitter, Peter Holsapple called him “the best singer of our generation,” and Ted Leo wrote “my overall impression of Tommy Keene is that his talent was surpassed only by his kindness. Those who knew him better will corroborate, I’m sure.”

Keene was an active participant in the Wild Honey Foundation charity concert series in Los Angeles.

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