American Saxophonist and No Wave Icon, James Chance, Passes Away at 71

For almost 50 years, James Chance proved his talents as a keyboard player, saxophonist, and singer as he contributed to bands like Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, The Flaming Demonics, and James Chance and Terminal City. A leading figure during the No Wave movement, Chance found the perfect blend between punk and jazz. While stepping away from the spotlight back in 2019, Chance sadly passed away on June 18 at the age of 71. 

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Breaking the news of his passing, Chance’s brother, David Siegfried, stated that the musician passed away on Tuesday in New York. Although not sharing what caused his death, Siegfried noted that his brother’s health had been declining for several years. 

With the James Chance Official page on Facebook posting the news of his passing, fans filled the comments with love and support. Some even shared their favorite performance from the controversial musician who wasn’t afraid to start a fight. He even once attacked critic Robert Christgau during a set. “I would do it on the beat – I would jump into the audience and slap someone on two and then I would get back on to the stage on three, and then back and forth.”

James Chance Remembered As Great Musician

Although contributing to jazz over the years, Chance always saw him as a rockstar. He once stated, “I just didn’t fit into the jazz scene at all. My who attitude, my own personal style, and everything was more out of rock’n roll.”

Recalling how he first signed Chance, ZE Records founder Michael Zilkha praised the singer for his devotion to music. “I was seeking a fusion of disco and punk, and James was too. Once he transformed the Contortions into the slower and slinkier James White and the Blacks, it paved the way for my other bands and a whole slew of contemporaries. James was serious and devoted to his craft and a brilliant and original musician. It was an honor to work with him and I will miss him greatly.”

Singer Adele Bertei also remembered Chance, claiming, “Despite the mad darkness of the Contortions in late ‘78, I’ve always been fond of him.” She continued, “He’ll always remain an important artist in my opinion. I played with James in Los Angeles pre-pandemic, and no rancor existed between us at all.”

(unARTigNYC, 2019)

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