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Kevin Coyne was a musician, singer, composer, film-maker, and a writer of lyrics, stories and poems. The former "anti-star " was born on 27 January 1944 in Derbymarker, UK, and died in his adopted home of Nurembergmarker, Germany, on 2 December 2004.

Coyne is notable for his unorthodox and unforgettable style of blues-influenced guitar composition, the intense quality of his vocal delivery, and for his bold treatment of injustice to the mentally ill in his lyrical songcraft. Many influential music figures have called themselves fans of Coyne's work - notable among them are Sting and John Lydon. In the mid-1970s his band included guitarist Andy Summers prior to the formation of The Police. Prominent BBC disc jockey and world music authority Andy Kershaw described Coyne as, variously, "a national treasure who keeps getting better" and as one of the great British blues voices.

Coyne produced the distinctive art work for many of his own album covers over the years, but his move to Germany in the 1980s saw his work on full size paintings blossom in its own right. A selection of his paintings may be found at his official website

Early days

As a teen and young adult Coyne studied at the Joseph Wright School of Art from 1957 to 1961 and then studied graphics and painting at Derby School of Art from 1961 to 1965. His love of American bluesmen developed, as did his songcraft and his guitar and vocal talents.

At the conclusion of his arts training, Coyne began the work that would change him forever - he spent the three years, from 1965 to 1968, working as a social therapist and psychiatric nurse at Whittingham Hospital near Prestonmarker in Lancashiremarker and then for "The Soho Project" in London as a drugs counsellor. During this period of working with the mentally ill, he performed regularly. Subsequently, his musical aspirations took precedence and he signed a record deal in 1968.

Coyne's early break was the result of John Peel releasing recordings by Kevin's first band Siren in 1969 on his Dandelion Records label.

An established artist

Coyne's complete repertoire, contained in over 40 albums, shows a balance between tender love songs, songs of heart-breaking despair, songs of hope and songs of great humour. With many of his songs based on his life-long concern with life's casualties, the music on his albums often reflects extremes, with glorious melodies juxtaposed against tortured vocals or primeval screaming.

In 1978 Coyne collaborated with fellow Derby Art School graduate Ian Breakwell to produce the filmThe Institution based on Breakwell's Artist Placement Group work at Rampton Hospitalmarker in Nottinghamshiremarker.

Kevin's refusal to compromise was shown early in his career when he turned down a meeting with founder of Elektra Records Jac Holzman (Coyne's band Siren were on Elektra in America) to discuss replacing Jim Morrison in The Doors. "I didn't like the leather trousers!" was Coynes' alleged reason.

The uncompromising stance continued even when he was one of the first artists signed to Virgin Records and it was this attitude that endeared him to label-mates such as John Lydon, who played "Eastbourne Ladies" on a Desert Island Discs–type show, and The Mekons, who recorded his "Having a Party", a scathing attack on Richard Branson.

Coyne's first solo album Case History, recorded primarily with just his voice and guitar was powerful and direct, and was recorded for Peel's Dandelion label. When Dandelion ceased to exist the album largely sank into obscurity. Not before, however, it had come to the attention of Virgin records, who were sufficiently impressed to sign Coyne and release his 1973 album Marjory Razorblade.

Described as being musically "... a mixture of blues and music hall comedy, with a punk edge", this album contained many notable songs, such as the bitter and irreverent "Eastbourne Ladies" and the plaintive "House on the Hill" about life in a psychiatric institution. It was the record that was to be largely responsible for putting Coyne on the map of mainstream rock.

Another Virgin album release, Babble, courted controversy when Kevin suggested, in the theatre presentation of the piece, that the destructive relationship between the two lovers could have been based on The Moors Murderers. Two performances at The Royal Theatre at Stratfordmarker in London were cancelled at short notice by Newham Councilmarker following negative press reports in The Sun and The Evening Standard. The show was eventually staged, for four nights, at the Ovel House in Kenningtonmarker. Reviewing the show for the NME, Paul Du Noyer wrote :

American singer/songwriter Will Oldham claimed that the Babble album had "changed my life" and he went on to record two of the songs himself.

Nuremberg forward

Following a nervous breakdown and increasing difficulties with drink, Coyne left the UK in 1985. He settled in Nurembergmarker, Germany and having given up alcohol, never stopped recording and touring, as well as writing books and exhibiting his paintings. A selection of Coyne's writings, including many of his poems, can be viewed on the internet.

Coyne’s move to Germany saw his writing and painting career truly blossom. He published four books, two of which, Showbusiness and Party Dress, by Serpent's Tail in London. There were numerous exhibition of his visual work throughout Europe and the response was reassuringly strong. Those in Berlin, Amsterdammarker and Zürichmarker being particularly well reviewed and attended.. The paintings gained some notoriety and still attract commercial attention today.

In the late 1980s Coyne acted on stage, playing the small part of a rock star in Linie Eins (Line One), a German musical, at the Nuremberg opera house, but appearing only at the very end of the play.. His 1995 album, The Adventures of Crazy Frank, was based on a stage musical about English comedian Frank Randle - with Coyne in the title role. It also starred the singer Julia Kempken who was erroneously listed in the Guardian obituary as Kevin's wife. Kempken later wrote fondly of this mistake, suggesting that her performance on stage as Randle's wife had been so strong as to transform her, in the eyes of the press, into Kevin's actual wife. In reality Kevin married only twice, first to Leslie and second to Helmi, having another relationship between the two which saw the birth of his son Nico.

In Germany his sons from his first marriage, guitarist Robert and drummer Eugene, were recruited into his band. His later German recordings, including Knocking On Your Brain (1997) often featured the "Paradise Band". In later years he also collaborated with Brendan Croker (on Life Is Almost Wonderful), with Jon Langford of The Mekons (on One Day In Chicago) and with Gary Lucas once of Captain Beefheart's The Magic Band(on Knocking On Your Brain)


Diagnosed with lung fibrosis in 2002, Coyne died peacefully at his home. He is survived by his wife Helmi and his sons Eugene, Robert and Nico.

His wife Helmi intends to continue releasing recordings Kevin made in his last years on Kevin's own Turpentine Records label. The first was Underground (2006).

Notable albums from the large back catalogue are Case History (1972), Marjory Razorblade (1973), Millionaires and Teddybears (1978), Babble (1979) and Donut City (2004).

2007 tribute year

2007 would be the year that Kevin Coyne at last began to garner some of the attention for his increasingly creative and visible work. The Nightingales recorded a version of "Good Boy" for their album Out of True and Jackie Leven recorded a song about Kevin on his album Oh What A Blow The Phantom Dealt Me!, and "Here Come The Urban Ravens". Featured on the album, Whispers From The Offing - A Tribute to Kevin Coyne, put together by Kevin's friend Frank Bangay and showing not only the esteem in which Kevin was held by fellow musicians but his talent as a songwriter, as well.

The full track listing for the CD version of the album was:

  1. Black Cloud - Nigel Burch
  2. Talking To No One - Big Mehr and friend
  3. Born Crazy - Razz
  4. Sand All Yellow - Goldfish
  5. Cycling – Dog Latin
  6. Marlene - Nikki Sudden
  7. Raindrops On The Window - Kevin Hewick
  8. Hello Judas – Alternative TV
  9. I Only Want To See You Smile - Veronique Acoustique
  10. Blame It On The Night - Grae J Wall
  11. My Evil Island Home - Jowe Head
  12. Case History No 2 - Pascal Regis
  13. House On The Hill - Leo O'Kelly
  14. Mad Boy No2 - Frank Bangay and almost real
  15. Looking For The River - Chris Connelly
  16. Victoria Smiles - Heinz Rudolf Kunze
  17. Are We Dreaming? - The Otters (Ft. Mark Astronaut)
  18. Strange Pictures - Dave Russell
  19. Weirdo - Joey Stack
  20. A Loving Hand - Clive Product
  21. Lonesome Valley - Stumble On The Valves
  22. Here Come The Urban Ravens - Jackie Leven

  • The downloaded version also includes two bonus tracks - Sally Timm's "I'm Just A Man" and Jon Langford's "Having a Party" in Coyne's own voice at [99729].


In an interview in spring 2004, Coyne picked bis favourite blues musicians as Robert Johnson, Leroy Carr, Peetie Wheatstraw and Tommy McClennan



Solo and with his band
  • On Air - 2008 (Live Radio Bremen Aug 18th, 1975)
  • Underground -2006
  • One Day In Chicago (with Jon Langford) -2005
  • Donut City -2004
  • Carnival - 2002
  • Life is almost wonderful (mei Brendan Croker) - 2002
  • Room full of Fools - 2000
  • Sugar Candy Taxi - 2000
  • Bittersweet Lovesongs - 2000
  • Live Rough and More - 1997
  • Knocking On Your Brain - 1997
  • The Adventures of Crazy Frank - 1995
  • Elvira: Songs from the Archives 1979- 83 - 1994
  • Sign of the Times - 1994
  • Tough and Sweet - 1993
  • Burning Head - 1992
  • Wild Tiger Love - 1991
  • Peel Sessions - 1991
  • Romance - Romance - 1990
  • Everybody's naked - 1989
  • Stumbling on to Paradise - 1987
  • Rough - 1985
  • Legless In Manila - 1984
  • Beautiful Extremes et cetera - 1983
  • Politicz - 1982
  • Live in Berlin - 1981
  • Pointing the Finger - 1981
  • The Dandelion Years - 1981
  • Sanity Stomp (with Robert Wyatt) - 1980
  • Bursting Bubbles - 1980
  • Millionaires and Teddy Bears - 1979
  • Dynamite Daze - 1978
  • Beautiful Extremes - 1977
  • In Living Black and White - 1977
  • Heartburn - 1976
  • Let's Have A Party - 1976
  • Matching Head and Feet - 1975
  • Blame lt On The Night - 1974
  • Marjory Razorblade - 1973
  • Case History - 1972
  • The Club Rondo - 1995 (with material recorded in 1969/1971)
  • Let's do it - 1994 (with material recorded in 1969/1970)
  • Rabbits - 1994 (with material recorded in 1969/70)

With Siren
  • Strange Locomotion - 1971
  • Siren - 1969

With Dagmar Krause
  • Babble - Songs for Lonely Lovers - 1979


  • Mandy Lee / Bottle Up and Go - 1969
  • The Stride / I Wonder Where - 1969
  • Ze-Ze-Ze-Ze / And I Wonder - 1970
  • Strange Locomotion / I'm All Aching - 1971
  • Cheat Me / Flowering Cherry - 1972
  • Marlene / Everybody Says - 1973
  • Lovesick Fool / Sea of Love - 1973
  • Marlene / Sea of Love - 1973
  • Marlene / Jackie and Edna - 1973
  • I Believe In Love / Queenie Queenie Caroline - 1974
  • Rock 'n' Roll Hymn / It's Not Me - 1975
  • Saviour / Rock 'n' Roll Hymn - 1975
  • Lorna / Let's Have A Party - 1975
  • Let's Have A Party / Lorna - 1975
  • Saviour / Lonely Lovers - 1975
  • Don't Make Waves / Mona Where's My Trousers - 1976
  • Walk On By / Shangri-la - 1976
  • Fever / Daddy - 1976
  • Marlene / England Is Dying - 1977
  • Amsterdam / I Really Love You - 1978
  • I'll Go Too / Having A Party - 1979
  • So Strange / Father, Dear Father - 1982)
  • Happy Holiday (Open and Close) / Pretty Park -1985


  • The Party Dress -1990
  • Paradise (German) -1992
  • Show Business - 1993
  • Tagebuch eines Teddybären (German) - 1993
  • Ich, Elvis und Die Anderen (German) - 2000
  • That Old Suburban Angst - 2004, Tony Donaghy Publishing, ISBN 1954900308


  • The Institution (with Ian Breakwell) - 1978

References and notes

  1. Obituary in The Guardian by Alan Clayson
  2. Official site - paintings
  3. "Babble On ..", Paul du Noyer, New Musical Express, 8 September 1979, p42.
  4. Kevin Coyne books
  5. Kevin Coyne RIP
  6. Obituary in The Times: "Kevin Coyne - Singer-songwriter whose experience as a therapist influenced his music and who was dedicated to remaining an outsider"
  7. Interview by Chris Plummer (September 1998)
  8. Kunstmarkt:Kevin Coyne
  9. Pascal's Kevin Coyne page 1980s
  10. Bangay, Frank Interview 2004

External links

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