Ivan Kral, a co-founding guitarist with Blondie who later built a legacy in songwriting, has died at age 71.
Kral split before Blondie’s self-titled debut album arrived in 1976, but his music has since been performed by David Bowie, Pearl Jam, U2, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Simple Minds and John Waite, among others.
David Gaydecka of Prague’s Metronome Festival confirmed the news, adding that he was collaborating with Kral on an unfinished project. “We worked together since 2016, but the grand finale which we have prepared never came,” Gaydecka told Reuters. Kral’s wife Cindy Hudson also confirmed his death in a news statement.
Born shortly after the Communist takeover in Czechoslovakia, Kral immigrated as a teenager to the U.S., where his father served as a diplomat at the United Nations. Kral finally obtained American citizenship in 1981 following years as a refugee. He returned to his homeland, now known as the Czech Republic, after Communist rule ended in 1989, later working as an in-demand local producer.
Kral’s early band Lugar opened for Kiss during their early shows in 1973 at the Hotel Diplomat. His home movies formed the basis for 1976’s The Blank Generation, a seminal document of the New York City scene. “I had all these three-minute rolls of film,” Kral told the Ann Arbor News in 2010. “One day, I decided I had enough to make it into 50 minutes. I spliced it together in one day.”
Listen to U2 Cover ‘Dancing Barefoot’
After Blondie, he collaborated with Patti Smith on several career-defining recordings, including 1975’s Horses and the standout 1979 single “Dancing Barefoot.” A string of covers followed: U2 released their take on “Dancing Barefoot” as a B-side for 1988’s “When Love Comes to Town,” Simple Minds included it on 2001’s Neon Lights and Pearl Jam played it live.
Kral served as guitarist on Iggy Pop’s 1980 album Soldier and then co-wrote all of the original songs on the 1981 follow-up LP, Party, which included the single “Bang Bang.” Their initial meeting, Kral later admitted, hadn’t been that impressive. Pop “extends a hand and says, ‘I’m Iggy Pop and I’m producing your next album,'” Kral told Dangerous Minds in 2015. “I was thinking, ‘Yeah, sure, he’s just another nobody with big plans.’ After I saw the Stooges, I realized that I was the nobody with big plans.”
Bowie later covered “Bang Bang” for 1987’s Never Let Me Down. Kral also composed music for Barry Levinson‘s celebrated 1981 film Diner. He co-wrote four tracks with John Waite for 1982’s Ignition, beginning a collaboration that continued as Waite broke through on 1984’s No Brakes and 1985’s Mask of Smiles.
Kral played bass on Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, the 1987 live album by John Cale of the Velvet Underground. Smith and Cale – who produced Horses – then appeared on Kral’s 1995 studio album Nostalgia. Kral worked with bassist Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience too.