In Memoriam: Jet Black (1938 – 2022)

Brian John Duffy (August 26, 1938 – December 6, 2022), professionally known as Jet Black, was an English drummer and founding member of punk rock/new wave band The Stranglers. He last performed with the band in 2015, and officially retired in 2018.

His second wife, Helena, left him following several arguments over the Stranglers rehearsing in their home during the early days of the band.

Black had no contact with former Stranglers singer Hugh Cornwell after he left the band in 1990. According to Cornwell’s 2004 autobiography, when he telephoned Black to announce his resignation, the latter’s response was simply “OK, fine.” In 2014, he confirmed in a newspaper interview with the Oxford Times that he did not keep in touch with Cornwell. He most recently lived in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, where he reportedly designed and built wooden furniture.

Black died at his home in Wales on December 6, 2022, at the age of 84. Reacting to the news, Cornwell said: “We shared a special period of our lives when we strived to become professional musicians. We were immediately drawn to one another, he had a singular sense of purpose that I identified with. The Stranglers’ success was founded on his determination and drive.”

The Stranglers

The Stranglers are an English rock band who emerged via the punk rock scene. Scoring 23 UK top 40 singles and 19 UK top 40 albums to date in a career spanning five decades, the Stranglers are one of the longest-surviving bands to have originated in the UK punk scene.

Formed as the Guildford Stranglers in Guildford, Surrey, in early 1974, they originally built a following within the mid-1970s pub rock scene. While their aggressive, no-compromise attitude had them identified by the media with the emerging UK punk rock scene that followed, their idiosyncratic approach rarely followed any single musical genre, and the group went on to explore a variety of musical styles, from new wave, art rock and gothic rock through the sophisti-pop of some of their 1980s output. They had major mainstream success with their 1982 single “Golden Brown”. Their other hits include “No More Heroes”, “Peaches”, “Always the Sun”, “Skin Deep” and “Big Thing Coming”.

The Stranglers’ early sound was driven by Jean-Jacques Burnel’s melodic bass, but also gave prominence to Dave Greenfield’s keyboards. Their early music was also characterised by the growling vocals and sometimes misanthropic lyrics of both Burnel and Hugh Cornwell. Over time, their output gradually grew more refined and sophisticated. Summing up their contribution to popular music, critic Dave Thompson later wrote: “From bad-mannered yobs to purveyors of supreme pop delicacies, the group was responsible for music that may have been ugly and might have been crude – but it was never, ever boring.”