Andy "Fletch" Fletcher, the unassuming, bespectacled, red-headed keyboardist who for more than 40 years added his synth sounds to Depeche Mode hits like Just Can't Get Enough and Personal Jesus, has died at age 60.
Depeche Mode announced the death of founding member Fletcher on its official social media pages.
A person close to the band said Fletcher died on Thursday from natural causes at his home in the UK.
"We are shocked and filled with overwhelming sadness with the untimely passing of our dear friend, family member and bandmate Andy 'Fletch' Fletcher," the band's posts said.
"Fletch had a true heart of gold and was always there when you needed support, a lively conversation, a good laugh, or a cold pint."
English roots ahead of worldwide success
Fletcher formed the group that became giants of British electro-pop along with fellow synthesiser players Vince Clarke and Martin Gore, and lead singer Dave Gahan, in Basildon, England, in 1980.
The band broke out a year later with their debut album Speak and Spell, which opened with the modest hit New Life and closed with one of the band's enduring hits, Just Can't Get Enough.
Clarke left the group and was replaced by Alan Wilder after the album.
The group found international success with 1984's Some Great Reward and the single People are People, and their prominence grew throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.
Fletcher lent his keyboards to classic albums including Music for the Masses, Black Celebration and Violator.
The first of these led to a world tour that brought a live album, a documentary, and a legendary concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, that represented the pinnacle of the band's prominence.
A fan of soccer team Chelsea FC with a penchant for chess, Fletcher assumed a low-profile in the group. He did not sing or write songs, and his face was never as familiar as those of his bandmates.
"Martin's the songwriter, Alan's the good musician, Dave's the vocalist, and I bum around," he said in the tour documentary, 101.
But Fletch was a uniting figure and often the tie-breaking vote in the squabbles of his more famous bandmates.
He also occasionally played bass in the band.
Depeche Mode was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. Gahan, Fletcher and Gore had to accept the honour remotely along with all the other inductees in the pandemic year. As usual, Fletcher let his bandmates do nearly all the talking.
His death leaves Gahan and Gore as the only permanent members.
Music world reacts to shock death
Fletcher's musical peers paid tribute as word of his death spread.
"His keyboard sounds crafted not just Depeche Mode's sonic approach but shifted the direction of Techno, EDM, Downtempo, Triphop, & Electronica. Crucial loss," Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid tweeted.
The Pet Shop Boys said on Twitter that he was "a warm, friendly and funny person who loved electronic music".
We’re saddened and shocked that Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode has died. Fletch was a warm, friendly and funny person who loved electronic music and could also give sensible advice about the music business. pic.twitter.com/tOMQaeaFoc— Pet Shop Boys (@petshopboys) May 26, 2022
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark tweeted that he was a "beautiful person in an amazing band".
Lol Tolhurst, drummer with The Cure, shared a heartfelt tribute to Fletcher on Twitter: "I knew Andy and considered him a friend. We crossed many of the same pathways as younger men."
Very sad news today. Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode has passed. I knew Andy and considered him a friend. We crossed many of the same pathways as younger men . My heart goes out to his family, bandmates, and DM fans. RIP Fletch.— Lol Tolhurst (@LolTolhurst) May 26, 2022
Carol Decker, lead singer for the band T'Pau, described Fletcher as "a lovely guy", adding: "Sending all my love to his family friends and band members."
The eldest of four siblings, Fletcher was born in Basildon and raised in Nottingham, England.
He became childhood friends with Clarke, and with singer Alison Moyet, who would form Yazoo (known as Yaz in the US) with Clarke after he left Depeche Mode.
"Since we were 10," Moyet tweeted on Thursday. "Same estate. Class mates to label mates. He who kept faith with all the old gang and they with him. It doesn't compute."
I have just heard the news. Since we were 10. Same estate. Class mates to label mates. He who kept faith with all the old gang and they with him. It doesn’t compute. Fletch. I have no words. #andyfletcher— Alison Moyet (@AlisonMoyet) May 26, 2022
As teens, Fletcher and Clarke formed the short-lived group No Romance.
With Gore, who Fletcher met at a pub in Basildon in 1980, they formed the trio Composition of Sound, with all three playing synthesiser. Gahan was recruited into the group later in the year, and the name was changed to Depeche Mode.
Fletcher remained with the group until his death, though reported struggles with depression in 1994 spurred him to sit out part of a tour.
He started his own record label, Toast Hawaii, in 2002, releasing an album by the band CLIENT.
Fletcher performed DJ sets at the band's live shows, which he continued to do at festivals and clubs after he and CLIENT parted ways.
Fletcher is survived by his wife of nearly 30 years, Grainne Mullan, and their children Megan and Joe.