The term "godfather of punk" is one that's too often abused: The genre can't possibly have had 189,958 progenitors, could it? And bandying it about too lightly only cheapens it when referring to a musician for whom that really was the case.
As reported by the Detroit Free Press, Ron Asheton, who founded the Stooges with singer Iggy Pop and was one of a half-dozen players who defined what punk-rock guitar could and should be, was found dead in his home in Ann Arbor, MI, Tuesday morning. He was 60 years old.
I last spoke to Asheton circa the Stooges reunion in 2007, but we first connected in the late '90s when I was researching the roots of punk in Detroit for Let It Blurt, my biography of rock critic Lester Bangs. The two were friends and mutual admirers, and it seems fitting to give Lester the last word on Asheton's enduring contribution to music, to culture and most of all to punk. From "Roots of Punk (Part One)" in New Wave magazine, 1978:
"'1969'" featured the only use of wah-wah that I had ever liked on any record (mainly because Ron Asheton didn't do anything with it, no flash bulls---, he just blanged out a chord and let the technology play its own self), and most importantly of all, THAT HE AND IGGY DIDN'T GIVE A S--- ABOUT ANYTHING AND NEITHER DID WE. We knew that over in Michigan his lifestyle was identical to ours, just getting f---ed up all the time and trying to find the girls who'd f--- us and usually failing. F--- the establishment, f--- the counterculture, f--- the Beatles after that white atrocity, f--- rock 'n' roll for that matter, everybody being so goddam protective about it like it was some sickly child or something, f--- the government and f--- the war and f--- the college and f--- the hippies and f--- everything. F--- you. I'm f---ed up already. Listen, when one of your best friends is slumped in your room stoned just this side of death on Seconals, drooling on himself and mumbling "I dunno, man, lately I think I been turnin' into a vegetable..." you really don't want to listen to Abbey Road, much less "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," a title I can't even type without sneering.
Thanks, Ron, for giving us an alternative.