Bassist Matthew Seligman has died at the age of 64 after a battle with COVID-19.
Dolby shed light on Seligman’s dire situation two weeks ago with the first in a series of Facebook posts chronicling his friend and former bandmate’s condition. Earlier today he relayed a message he’d received regarding Seligman, stating that the bassist had suffered “a catastrophic hemorrhagic stroke from which he won’t recover.”
Seven hours later, Dolby confirmed Seligman’s passing with a post that simply read “Matthew’s gone.”
Born in Cyprus and raised in England, Seligman initially came to prominence in the late 1970s as a member of the Soft Boys. The psychedelic group released two albums, 1979’s A Can of Bees and 1980s Underwater Moonlight. Though neither were commercial successful, they’ve since become cult classics, inspiring such artists as R.E.M., the Flaming Lips, and the Replacements.
In 1981, Seligman joined synth-pop group the Thompson Twins. The bassist’s tenure with the band was brief, as he only appeared on one of their albums, 1982’s Set. The LP’s opening track, “In the Name of Love” became a dance hit in the U.S., the group’s first successful foray across the pond.
Dolby would also work with the Thompson Twins at this time, adding keyboards to Set and appearing with the band during several performances. The musician soon recruited Seligman to contribute to his solo work, spawning a creative friendship which would last for decades.
Seligman would perform on all five of Dolby’s solo albums, including the debut LP The Golden Age of Wireless which featured breakout hit “She Blinded Me with Science.” The track peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard chart, becoming synonymous with the ‘80s new wave sound.
Listen to Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science”
“I first met Thomas to play Moog, not bass at all,” Seligman explained during a 2019 appearance on the The Hustle podcast. The musician’s Moog synthesizer part would appear on the “She Blinded Me With Science” single. “I’d never played Moog before. And the pattern with Thomas was he loved to give me things I couldn’t do.”
Follow-up album, 1984’s The Flat Earth, made a concerted effort to get away from the sounds of “She Blinded Me With Science.” “I think we were all inspired by Bowie,” Seligman explained. “And Bowie had already by that stage established this pattern of going through several different versions of himself. And so I think Tom thought, ‘Well, I could do that. I could have a new image.’”
The decision was polarizing. Flat Earth’s most commercially successful single was “Hyperactive!,” which peaked at No. 17 in the U.K. but failed to chart in America.
Following his stint with Dolby, Seligman became the musical version of a “gun-for-hire,” contributing to a wide variety of artists’ material. The bassist backed Bowie during the iconic singer’s 1985 performance at Live Aid and would be featured on two of Bowie’s releases the following year: the soundtrack to Labyrinth, as well as the song “Absolute Beginners” from the film of the same name.
Listen to David Bowie’s “Absolute Beginners”
Seligman’s many other credits include work with Peter Murphy, Morrissey, Tori Amos and Sinead O’Connor.
The bassist moved to Japan in the early 2000s, living there for years before returning to the U.K.. He transitioned from music to law, practicing as a lawyer who specialized in human rights while also working as a mental health advocate.
Seligman was diagnosed with COVID-19 in early April and admitted to St. George’s hospital in London. He had been in a medically induced coma roughly two weeks prior to passing.