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The Prodigy frontman Keith Flint dies at age 49

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Keith Flint, the ferocious frontman whose British group the Prodigy was a pioneer of the 1990s’ electronica movement, was found dead at his home in Essex, England, on Monday morning. He was 49.

No official cause of death has been released by authorities, but according to an Instagram statement posted by Prodigy band member Liam Howlett, Flint died by suicide. “The news is true, I can’t believe I’m saying this but our brother Keith took his own life over the weekend,” Howlett wrote. “I’m shell shocked, f****n angry , confused and heart broken.”

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The Prodigy also confirmed Flint’s death Monday on their Facebook page, stating, “It is with deepest shock and sadness that we can confirm the death of our brother and best friend Keith Flint. A true pioneer, innovator and legend. He will be forever missed.”

The Prodigy, along with the Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, and Fatboy Slim, helped usher techno music into the mainstream, and Flint played a key role in that crossover success, putting a recognizable frontman face on the usually anonymous techno genre. With his freaky, distinctive appearance and aggressive, confrontational live performance style, he was the rock star of electronica, bringing a punk-rock energy to the scene that connected with rock and hip-hop fans. Flint helped make the group MTV darlings (in intense videos like “Firestarter” and “Breathe”) and festival-circuit favorites, with the Prodigy headlining Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Glastonbury.

The Prodigy scored seven No. 1 albums in the U.K. throughout their career (including just last year with No Tourists), sold 30 million records worldwide, and won two Brit Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards, five MTV Europe Music Awards, and two Grammy nominations. Their third studio album, 1997’s The Fat of the Land, was their American breakthrough, going to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — unheard of for an electronic music act at that time — and eventually selling 2.6 million copies in the U.S. alone (it sold 10 million internationally).

The group’s ascendance in the States coincided with the controversy surrounding their widely banned Jonas Akerlund-directed music video for the Fat of the Land single “Smack My Bitch Up,” which featured nudity, graphic violence, drug use, and sex during a wild night out in London. The video was criticized by feminist groups like the National Organization for Women for its scenes depicting violence against women, but the band defended the clip, explaining that it is revealed in the final scene that the carousing protagonist is actually female. MTV played the video for only three weeks, and only late at night, during December 1997, but still nominated it for four VMAs. “Smack My Bitch Up” later won Best Dance Video and Breakthrough Video at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards.

Celebrity fans as wide-ranging as Jimmy Page, Ashton Kutcher, and Paul Oakenfold took to social media Monday to express their shock and condolences over the techno pioneer’s passing.

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