Skip to main content

Passings: Tommy Keene (1958 - 2017)

by VVN Music

Power pop master Tommy Keene died on Thursday (November 23) at the age of 59.

A short message was posted on his website:

Tommy passed unexpectedly and peacefully in his sleep. Thank you to all his fans, friends and family who he loved very much. xo Matty

Keene grew up in Bethesda, MD where he began by taking classical piano but eventually moved to both guitar and drums. While attending Walter Johnson High School, he played in the band Blue Steel which also counted Mike Lofgren, the younger brother of Nils Lofgren, as a member. While at the University of Maryland, he formed the band The Rage but jumped ship to join a popular local band called The Razz.

Post-The Razz, Keene went on a tour of Europe playing with Suzanne Fellini and, after returning home, formed a short lived group before finally starting to play using his own name. Tommy released his first album, Strange Alliance, in 1982 but it was the 1984 EP Places That Are Gone that brought him great critical acclaim.

In 1986, he signed with Geffen Records and released Songs From the Film which would be his only charting album. He followed that same year with the EP Run Now and, in 1989, with Based on Happy Times but was dropped from the label.

Keene next signed with Matador where he released the 1992 EP Sleeping on a Roller Coaster and the albums Ten Years After (1996) and Isolation Party (1998).  Since then, he has continued to record for labels such as spinArt, Eleven Thirty and Second Emotion Records. He also released the album Blues and Boogie Shoes with Robert Pollard under the name The Keene Brothers.