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Matthew Seligman, who played bass in the influential English psychedelic band The Soft Boys before joining backing bands for artists including David Bowie, Morrissey, Sinead O’Connor and the Thompson Twins, died Friday evening at St George’s Hospital in London. Seligman was admitted in early April for symptoms of COVID-19; he had been on a ventilator for two weeks when, on Friday morning, he suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. His death was confirmed by English musician and producer Thomas Dolby, a longtime friend and collaborator. Seligman was 64.
After meeting singer Robyn Hitchcock in the late 1970s, Seligman joined The Soft Boys ahead of the band’s second album, 1980’s Underwater Moonlight. Bridging sounds from English new wave and post-punk with elements of psychedelic rock, Underwater Moonlight influenced alternative giants such as R.E.M. and The Replacements. In a Facebook post, Hitchcock wrote that Seligman’s playing on Underwater Moonlight made the album “an exuberant LP to record and listen to.”
“His manic bass run at the end of ‘Insanely Jealous’ and his stately propeller dive into the last chorus of the title track, as well as the insistent groove he brought to ‘Kingdom of Love’ are some of the finest bass playing I have ever witnessed,” Hitchcock wrote.
The Soft Boys broke up shortly after releasing Underwater Moonlight, and Seligman spent the rest of the decade as a touring and session musician. He played in several iterations of David Bowie’s backing band throughout the ’80s — including at his 1985 Live Aid concert and on his soundtrack album for the film Labyrinth.
In the 1990s, Seligman withdrew from music and retrained as a lawyer. Though he largely focused on his legal career for the next 30 years, he continued to play in touring bands and recording sessions through the rest of his life.
On Saturday, Dolby posted a GoFundMe page seeking financial support for Seligman’s partner and two children, which has since surpassed its fundraising goal.
“I’ve worked with some very fine bass players,” Dolby told NPR. “Some of them were more precise than Matthew. Some of them were funkier than Matthew. But he had an enormous amount of heart, and that translated to his bass playing. He brought this sort of warmth to the music. He came up with parts that were really lovely, that showed his personality. That was Matthew. And everybody felt the same way.”