On this sad day for fans of Devo, here’s Evie Nagy, the author of our forthcoming 33 1/3 on Devo’s Freedom of Choice on the unexpected passing of the band’s guitarist, Bob Casale. You can read an author Q&A with Evie here.
On February 17th, longtime Devo guitarist Bob Casale passed away suddenly of heart failure at the age of 61. “Bob 2” (to differentiate him from “Bob 1” Mothersbaugh) was by all accounts as genuinely kind and thoughtful as they come, always gracious and generous to friends and fans. His brother, Devo co-founder Gerald Casale, said on Twitter that Bob was “Devo’s anchor. Level-headed, even-keeled and very slow to anger. If he got mad you knew you deserved it.” In a band that was, at its stylized and artistic core, founded on anger and insubordination after the Kent State shootings, I can only imagine how valuable this was. The loss is a great one, for Devo, for music, and for his family.
Devo was and is many things–surprising, iconoclastic, alien, philosophical, pop genius–but at its foundation it is a family band, two pairs of brothers whose other siblings also played important parts at one point or another. In my research for the 33 1/3 book on Freedom of Choice, it has become clear that this family dynamic was critical to Devo’s work in the studio and on the road, and is probably at least part of the reason they have endured for 40 years, even through extended periods of hiatus and members’ changing priorities. It’s also because each member had unique gifts that filled valuable roles; in Bob 2’s case, in addition to diverse musical talent, it was engineering and production. After Freedom of Choice, Devo only used an external producer for one of their subsequent five albums, making Bob 2’s technical contributions central to the band’s output. According to Jerry, Bob Casale’s commitment to and love for Devo was deep, and he was very much hoping the band would reunite for future performances. There are many people who still hope that will happen, but it definitely won’t be the same.
Here is Jerry’s official statement about his brother’s death:
“As an original member of Devo, Bob Casale was there in the trenches with me from the beginning. He was my level-headed brother, a solid performer and talented audio engineer, always giving more than he got. He was excited about the possibility of Mark Mothersbaugh allowing Devo to play shows again. His sudden death from conditions that lead to heart failure came as a total shock to us all.”
–Gerald Casale, Devo founder