D.C. New Wave and Power Pop Artist Tommy Keene Dies at 59

Maryland-born rock musician Tommy Keene has died at 59.

A post on his website confirmed he passed away in his sleep Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. There was no word about the cause

Keene was born in Bethesda in 1958.

In the 1980s, he was on the forefront of the new wave and power pop movements, originally getting noticed as guitarist of the band Razz.

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“I’ve seen a lot of bands in my day, obviously, they, to this day, were absolutely one of the best bands ever,” 9:30 Club and The Anthem owner Seth Hurwitz said. “Not just from D.C. -- ever, anywhere. Just phenomenal.”

Hurwitz managed Keene’s early career.

“He really didn’t sound like anyone else,” Hurwitz said. “He didn’t copy anyone.”

He became known for his emotional songwriting and searing guitar work.

“It’s very melodic compared to just raw rock ‘n’ roll,” musician and record store owner Bob Berberich said. “It was melodic like the Beatles but a harder back beat and harder guitar riffs.”

Keene never achieved super stardom, but he had a prolific career as a guitarist and songwriter.

“Just knowing what a really sweet, great guy he was, and it comes through in his music,” Berberich said. “The goodness of him as a human comes through.”

His best known song was the title track to his 1984 EP "Places That Are Gone," which was voted Village Voice's EP of the year.

In addition to his critically acclaimed solo career, Keene played in support of and in touring bands of artists including Matthew Sweet, Paul Westerberg and Robert Pollard.

While Keene never became a household name, his influence can be heard in the music of those he worked with, including members of REM, the Goo Goo Dolls and the Gin Blossoms.

"He was a cool guy," Hurwitz said. "He was one of the cool guys. He was always cool."

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