Funk pioneer William Onyeabor has died, age 70

The highly influential funk musician passed away following a brief illness.

Highly influential funk musician William Onyeabor has died at the age of 70.

A post on Onyeabor’s Facebook page, which is run by record label Luaka Bop, confirmed that the musician passed away on Monday (January 16). “He died peacefully in his sleep following a brief illness, at his home in Enugu, Nigeria,” the post said.

Onyeabor released eight acclaimed funk albums between 1977 and 1985 before embracing Christianity and distancing himself from his music.

However, his pioneering synth-funk tracks were rediscovered in recent years thanks to Luaka Bop’s compilation album ‘Who Is William Onyeabor?’ and Noisey’s film about his career, Fantastic Man.

In 2014, musicians including Talking Heads‘ David Byrne and Hot Chip‘s Alexis Taylor formed the Atomic Bomb! Band, a touring supergroup dedicated to playing Onyeabor’s music live.

Onyeabor rarely gave interviews, but he spoke to BBC Radio 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne in 2014, saying: “I only create music that will help the world.”

Luaka Bop writes on Facebook that Onyeabor was also a successful businessman and a highly respected figure in his hometown of Enogu, where he served as a Justice of the Peace and was commonly referred to as “The Chief”.

NAIJ.com reports that he is survived by four children and four grandchildren.