Chris Dedrick, leader and songwriter of the cult group the Free Design, died on Friday, according to his website.
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The Free Design released several soft-pop albums between 1967 and 1972, initially under the mentorship of easy-listening legend Enoch Light. The jazz-inflected, subtle tunes composed by Dedrick (who led the vocal trio of siblings) plus similarly-arranged covers stood in sharp contrast to the heavy rock and psychedelics inclinations of the day.
In a peculiar twist, they became revered by generations of younger musicians, particularly in Japan in the '90s. Beck and Stereolab have been influenced by the Free Design, and hip label Light in the Attic reissued their albums no long ago. Even noise and avant-garde musicians have been known to sing their praises.
The Hatesexy blog features a recent interview with Dedrick as a memorial, where he addressed the cult status of his band with his usual humility:
Anyone who thinks they are avant garde is probably too stuck in intellect; music that lasts is usually not an experiment, but an experience. And tags should be endings, not descriptions. I'm grateful the Free Design music is still around and bringing some enjoyment to some people. The labels are just for fun.