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Olivia Stock
18 December 2023, 10:46

Amp Fiddler, legendary Detroit musician and educator, dies aged 65

The funk and electronic music pioneer had been battling an undisclosed illness since December 2022

Amp Fiddler sitting outside of his home in Detroit, smiling next to his two dogs
Credit: Conor Anderson

Legendary Detroit musician and educator Joseph “Amp” Fiddler has died aged 65.

The news was shared on Monday (18th December) by Faith Fanzine, who wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “Faith are saddened to hear that Amp Fiddler has passed away. The king of the new era of Detroit Soul. RIP.”

The singer, songwriter, producer and keyboardist had been struggling with an undisclosed illness for just over a year, with a GoFundMe launched last December to assist in covering his medical bills.

“After many months in the hospital, and now at home recuperating from surgery in August, Amp needs our resources to support his continued healing as he journeys back to the stage,” read the fundraiser, which generated over $75,000.

In the past week, two benefit concerts took place at Detroit venues Marble Bar and Spot Lite to help raise further funds for Fiddler’s medical expenses, with artists such as Dez Andrés, Britney Stoney, Bevlove and Monica Blaire performing.

Following the announcement of Fiddler’s death, tributes have poured in from around the music world.

Questlove paid respect to the influential musician on Instagram, writing: “Rest easy brother Amp. For all those talks during the Pfunk tour. For all the music. Especially of course mentoring the one who mentored us (Dilla)——thank you brother.”

British DJ Gilles Peterson also wrote: “Waking up to the desperately sad news that our dear friend Amp Fiddler has passed... from George Clinton to Dilla to Moodyman ... Detroit royalty ... a huge influence on musicians from all sides of the globe – he connected generations and scenes... a mentor to so many.”

Fiddler began his career in the 1970s as part of the soul/R&B group Enchantment before becoming a band member of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic, with whom he performed for over a decade.

From there, he embarked on a solo career, working with everyone from Prince and Jamiroquai to Moodymann, Tony Allen, Theo Parrish and Dames Brown. He’s also credited with teaching J Dilla how to use the Akai MPC, Dilla’s preferred sampler and drum machine that now resides in the Smithsonian.

A keen educator and collaborator, Fiddler opened up his Detroit home studio to many young artists, including T3, Dez Andres and Waajeed, who cited him as a key influence in a 2022 in an interview with DJ Mag.  

In tribute to Fiddler, Waajeed wrote on Instagram: "It’s been a pleasure to share time with you. I can only hope to face the challenges life brings as fearlessly as you did. I’m grateful your transition brings you peace. We will carry your name."

DJ Mag paid a visit to Fiddler's basement studio back in 2021, where he told writer Tajh Morris about the importance of collaboration and shared pursuits. “We get magic when we work with other people, other musicians, as opposed to cats who sit around and do everything by themselves,” he said. 

Fiddler released eight albums throughout his career, including his 1990 debut ‘With Respect’, 2004’s ‘Waltz of a Ghetto Fly’, and 2016’s ‘Motor City Booty’. As an artist on Moodymann’s label Mahogani Music, the musician released his final album, ‘Amp Dog Knights’, in 2017. Fiddler spoke about his lifelong intentions with music in an interview with Beautiful Humans magazine shortly after.

“I believe that I’m here for a reason, to make changes, to help and heal people somewhat,” he shared. “Music soothes the soul and I believe that we as artists have an obligation to keep bringing music when the frequency and the vibration helps to take people to a different, higher frequency, level, love or whatever it is."

“I believe that’s my purpose to be here, to make people happy, to be a messenger. It’s my mission to keep writing and sending this positive loving message out there.”

Read some social media tributes to Amp, and listen to 'Dreamin'', below.