James Chance, Saxophonist and Vocalist of The Contortions, Dies at 71

James Chance Death: James Chance, a renowned saxophonist and vocalist, has passed away at 71. His brother David Siegfried announced his death, citing declining health for several years. The cause of death was not specified.

Remembering James Chance

Early Life and Career Beginnings

Born in Milwaukee as James Siegfried, he performed as James Chance and James White. He led James White and the Blacks, a key group in 1970s No Wave. Based in New York City, Chance was notorious for his provocative stage presence.

Contributions to Music and the No Wave Movement

Chance began his musical journey in Milwaukee, playing in a band named Death. In 1976, he moved to New York City and joined Flaming Youth. Together with his roommate, Lydia Lunch, he started the band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. In 1977, he formed the Contortions, who were featured on the seminal “No New York” compilation album, assembled by Brian Eno.

James Chance’s Impact and Legacy

Musical Style and Influence

Chance’s music blended jazz, punk, and funk with improvisational sax style. He brought intense energy to every show. With bands like Flaming Demonics and Sardonic Symphonics, he made a mark on No Wave and beyond.

Notable Albums and Performances

The Contortions’ notable albums are “Buy” and “Off White,” featuring Lydia Lunch. “Buy” released in 1979 and “Off White” in 1980 under James White and the Blacks. These albums blend James Brown, Ornette Coleman, and Iggy Pop’s sounds. They have influenced many bands since.

Final Performance

James Chance’s final live performance took place in March 2019 in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Despite not being traditionally accomplished in music, his energy and unique sound defined an era of music in Downtown New York.

Tributes and Remembrances

Family and Friends

James Chance is survived by his mother, Jean Siegfried; his brother and fellow performer, David Siegfried, and his wife, Donna Seaman; and his sisters, Jill Siegfried and Mary Koehler, and her husband, Randy. His longtime partner, Judy Taylor, passed away in 2020.

Reflections on His Career

Tributes have poured in from those who admired and were influenced by Chance. On the liner notes for a re-issue of “Buy,” Marc Masters wrote, “Led by the brash yelps and free-sax squawks of Chance, Contortions spit out fiercely rhythmic tunes. They are charged by the wiry guitar lines of Jody Harris and the dizzying slide guitar of Pat Place… ‘Designed to Kill’ shoots sparks of sound. ‘Contort Yourself’ is a nihilistic dance number. In it, Chance tells listeners to twist into knots, physically and mentally.”

James Chance’s Enduring Influence

James Chance was known for his unhinged behavior and confrontational performances. His influence on the No Wave scene is undeniable. He blended styles fearlessly in music and life, leaving a lasting legacy. This legacy inspires musicians and fans alike, continuing to this day.

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