The Genius of Kraftwerk’s Florian Schneider in 5 Amazing Videos

From 1970s sonic freak-outs to songs made in protest against ocean pollution, we remember the electronic music icon.

The music world was shocked and saddened today by the news that Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider died at the age of seventy-three after battling cancer. Detailing the profound influence Kraftwerk has had on music since the group’s 1970 debut is an exhausting endeavor on any level. The impact that Schneider and his cohorts left on the music we hear today across countless genres is readily apparent. Here are five videos that capture just some of the genius that made Florian Schneider into an icon and legend.

Live in Soest, Germany (1970)

While America was still riding high on the cultural fallout of Woodstock from the summer of 1969, Kraftwerk was in Germany with a completely different soundtrack for the new generation. The earliest known video of the band performing live in 1970 finds them hitting a crowd of teenagers with sporadic and dissonant noise, hard oscillating synth sounds with intermittent blasts of raw, ragged rhythms. Florian Schneider plays the flute. The crowd seems shellshocked. It’s pretty great.

“Kakteen, Wüste, Sonne” Live (1971)

Just one year after the group’s debut and they had already evolved into something of a jam band, with elements of Pink Floyd and King Crimson prog-rock baked into their open-ended grooves. Again, Schneider adds unique textures with his flute.

Kraftwerk Comes to America (1975)

“Kraftwerk is not a band,” Schneider told Rolling Stone back in 1975 when they self-financed their U.S. tour. “It’s a concept. We call it ‘Die Menschmaschine,’ which means ‘the human machine.’ We are not the band. I am me. Ralf is Ralf. And Kraftwerk is a vehicle for our ideas.” In the same article, Schneider uses a Kraftwerk promo postcard to get the band seated quickly despite a long wait at a popular Atlanta brunch spot.

Live in Austria (1981)

Kraftwerk’s 1981 album Computer World was followed by a tour that found the group liberated from their usual banks of keyboards. New technology allowed the members to program sounds into handheld devices while they moved about the stage. In this clip, Schneider can be seen presenting his device for fans to play.

Florian Schneider Talks About Stop Plastic Pollution (2016)

Schneider quietly left Kraftwerk in 2008, but in 2016 he surprised the world by releasing a new track, “Stop Plastic Pollution.” Made in conjunction with Parley for the Oceans, Schneider would tell an audience what inspired him to make the tune in support of keeping the world’s ocean’s clean.

BONUS: This video interview with Schneider from Rio in 1998 is quite entertaining.

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