Bob Casale, who was a key musical figure in Devo, a band that was at the forefront of the new wave movement in the late 1970s with their seminal irresistible smash hit “Whip It,” passed away on February 17, 2014 from heart failure. He was 61.
Born Robert Edward Casale Jr., but credited as “Bob2” in the band, the Kent, OH native’s passing was confirmed by his brother, bandmate, and Devo founder Gerald Casale, who posted the news to the official Devo Facebook page. Casale, who played guitar and keyboards, was a member of Devo during what is arguably the band’s zenith, from 1976 to 1991. He was also a current member of the band as well, having returned to it back in 1996, when Devo reformed after a five-year separation.
Devo was a strange musical anomaly. Hard to pin down what kind of genre they were, they were at once like proponents of quirky bands like The Residents before them and They Might Be Giants after them, mixed in with a kind of Kraftwerk sleek deadpan style — especially during the band’s successful years, when their fashion stock in trade consisted of jet black shirts with what appeared to be inverted flower pots firmly affixed on the band members’ heads — and even taking a couple of quarts of attitude from the punk scene, which had just passed through the global fabric by the time Devo came on the scene in the mainstream.
With songs like “Whip It,” “Girl U Want,” and the robotic sonic conveyor belt gleam of their cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” Devo (short for “Devolution”) carved a niche for creating early proponents of the sounds that would later be known and cataloged as electronica. Their 1980 Freedom of Choice album was their peak in terms of sales and arguably creativity. The band remained a cult favorite for years afterwards. Devo reformed again in 1996 after breaking up five years prior. They released in 2010 what is now their final album with Casale, Something for Everybody.
Lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh said it best to sum up the contributions Bob Casale gave to Devo in a statement released this past Tuesday in which he wrote that his bandmate was “integral in Devo’s sound.” Casale is survived by his wife, a son, and a daughter.