R.I.P. Florian Schneider: 5 Best Kraftwerk Songs to Honor the Co-Founder of the Influential Electronic Group

Florian Schneider, the co-founder of Kraftwerk with Ralf Hütter, passed away last week after a short battle with cancer at 73, according to Sony Berlin.

Kraftwerk is one of the most influential electronic music acts of the 1970s and 1980s. Schneider himself was namechecked in a David Bowie track, "V-2 Schneider," and Kraftwerk music was sampled heavily by hip-hop pioneers, perhaps most famously by Afrika Bambaataa, who transformed "Trans Europe Express" into "Planet Rock."

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Though their earlier work was more experimental—in line with the Krautrock scene like their fellow bands Can and Neu!—their work soon became poppier and filled dance floors from Düsseldorf to Detroit.

In honor of the passing of a man who drastically changed popular music, Newsweek looks at five of the best Kraftwerk songs.

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Kraftwerk standing in phone booths in Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo, September 1981. Florian Schneider is first from the right. Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty

5 of the Best Kraftwerk Songs to Honor Florian Schneider

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1. Radioactivity

The track opens with a beat reminiscent of a geiger counter, and leads into morse code spelling out the name of the song. Though the original song puns on both radioactive fallout as well as the activity of actual radios with lyrics like "Discovered by Madame Curie" and "Tune in to the melody," Kraftwerk would later rewrite the lyrics as part of their activism against nuclear power, changing the hook of the song to "Stop Radioactivity," and adding a lyric, "Contaminating the population."

Contrary to the lyric, however, Madame Curie did not discover radioactivity, but merely coined the word.

2. Ruckzuck

Taken from the first, self-titled album, "Ruckzuck," which means "right now" in German is a driving instrumental that spotlights Schneider's flute playing, a skill he would use less and less as Kraftwerk's sound became more and more electronic. In addition to being a great song, "Ruckzuck" highlights the Krautrock side of the band before they became more dance-focused. Those of a certain age may also recognize this song as the theme for the PBS science show Newton's Apple.

3. Autobahn

"Autobahn" was Kraftwerk's first breakout hit—which is perhaps surprising, considering that the full version takes up the entire side of the Autobahn album. A number of edits were released over the years, trimming the song from 22 minutes down as far as just over three minutes. Though the song's main lyric, "Wir fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn" ("We drive, drive drive, on the Autobahn"), was compared with the Beach Boys' "Fun, Fun, Fun," Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flür denied the connection, but admitted, "It works. Driving is fun."

4. Computer Love

"Computer Love" is taken from Kraftwerk's seminal Computer World album. Though technology has long been a major theme of Kraftwerk's music—this is the band that did "The Robots" after all—the album looked at the then-new personal computer being introduced into offices and homes. This song in particular explored the computer's ability to both stop and cause loneliness, as the narrator is staying in for a night alone, and calling a number for "a data date," while lamenting "I don't know what to do / I need a rendezvous."

The song got a second life when Coldplay nicked the melody for their single "Talk" from the album X&Y.

5. Neon Lights

Though this comes from the same album as the hit "The Robots," The Man-Machine, "Neon Lights" is a gorgeous look through the city at night. Like much of Kraftwerk's work, the lyric is simple—just "Neon lights / Shimmering neon lights / And at the fall of night / This city's made of lights" repeated—but the beautiful melody gives the song a dreamlike, wistful quality. Though many focus on Kraftwerk's danceability, "Neon Lights" shows that the classically trained Schneider and Hütter could easily create their own modern take on classical-esque melodies.

R.I.P. Florian Schneider: 5 Best Kraftwerk Songs to Honor the Co-Founder of the Influential Electronic Group | Culture