By Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Andy “Fletch” Fletcher, keyboardist for British synth pop giants Depeche Mode for more than 40 years, has died at age 60.
A person close to the band said Fletcher died Thursday from natural causes at his home in the United Kingdom. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
“We are shocked and filled with overwhelming sadness with the untimely passing of our dear friend, family member and bandmate Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher,” the band’s posts said. “Fletch had a true 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 along with fellow synthesizer players Vince Clarke and Martin Gore, and lead singer Dave Gahan, in Basildon, England in 1980.
The band would break out a year later with their debut album “Speak and Spell,” which opened with the modest hit “New Life” and closed with one of the band’s enduring hits, “Just Can’t Get Enough.”
Clarke would leave the group and be replaced by Alan Wilder after the album.
The group would find international success with 1984’s “Some Great Reward” and the single “People are People,” and their prominence would only grow throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.
Fletcher would lend his keyboards to classic albums including “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, that represented the pinnacle of the band’s prominence.
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 never as familiar as those of his bandmates.
“Martin’s the songwriter, Alan’s the good musician, Dave’s the vocalist, and I bum around,” he said in the tour documentary, “101.”
But Fletch was a uniting figure and often the tiebreaking vote in the squabbles of his more 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 him tribute as word of his death spread.
“His keyboard sounds crafted not just Depeche Mode’s sonic approach but shifted the direction of Techno, EDM, Downtempo, Triphop, & Electronica. Crucial loss,” Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid tweeted.