LOS ANGELES (AP) — Andy “Fletch” Fletcher, keyboardist for British synth pop giants Depeche Mode for more than 40 years, has died at age 60.
Depeche Mode announced the death of founding member Fletcher on its official social media pages.
A person close to the group said Fletcher died of natural causes at his home in the UK on Thursday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
“We are shocked and filled with immense sadness at the untimely passing of our dear friend, family member and teammate Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher,” the group’s messages said. “Fletch had a real heart of gold and was always there when you needed support, a lively conversation, a good laugh or a cold pint.”
Fletcher formed Depeche Mode with fellow synthesizers Vince Clarke and Martin Gore, and vocalist Dave Gahan, in Basildon, England in 1980.
The band would release a year later with their debut album “Speak and Spell,” which would open with the humble hit “New Life” and end with one of the band’s most enduring hits, “Just Can’t Get Enough”.
Clarke will leave the group and be replaced by Alan Wilder after the album.
The group would achieve international success with 1984’s “Some Great Reward” and the single “People are People”, and their notoriety would only grow throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.
Fletcher would lend his keyboards to classic albums such as “Music for the Masses”, “Black Celebration” and “Violator”.
The first of these led to a world tour that brought a live album, a documentary and a legendary concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, which represented the pinnacle of the band’s notoriety.
The bespectacled redhead with a penchant for chess, Fletcher assumed a low profile in the group. He did not sing or write songs, and his face was never as familiar as that of his bandmates.
“Martin is the songwriter, Alan is the good musician, Dave is the vocalist and I hang around,” he said in the tour’s documentary, “101.”
But Fletch was a unifying figure and often the deciding vote in the feuds of his most famous bandmates.
He also occasionally played bass in the band.
His death leaves Gahan and Gore as the only permanent members.
Fletcher’s musical peers paid tribute to him as news of his death spread.
“His keyboard sounds not only shaped the sonic approach of Depeche Mode, but also changed the direction of Techno, EDM, Downtempo, Triphop and Electronica. Crucial loss,” Living Color guitarist Vernon Reid tweeted.
The Pet Shop Boys said on Twitter that he was “a warm, friendly, funny person who loved electronic music”.
Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark tweeted that he was a “beautiful person in an amazing band”.
The eldest of four siblings, Fletcher was born in Basildon and grew up in Nottingham, England.
He became childhood friends with Clarke and with singer Alison Moyet, who would form Yazoo (known as Yaz in the US) with Clarke after leaving Depeche Mode.
“Since we were 10,” Moyet tweeted Thursday. “Same subdivision. Classmates to tag classmates. He who kept faith with all the old band and they with him. It doesn’t calculate. Fletch. I have no words.”
As teenagers, Fletcher and Clarke formed the short-lived group “No Romance”.
Together with Gore, whom Fletcher met in a Basildon pub in 1980, they formed the trio Composition of Sound, all three playing synthesizers. Gahan was recruited into the group later that year, and the name was changed to Depeche Mode.
Fletcher would remain with the band until his death, although reported problems with depression in 1994 prompted him to be absent from part of a tour.
He launched his own label, Toast Hawaii, in 2002, releasing an album by CLIENT.
Fletcher would DJ sets at the band’s live shows, which he continued to do at festivals and clubs after he and CLIENT parted ways.
Fletcher is survived by his wife of nearly 30 years, Gráinne Mullan, and their children Megan and Joe.