"Michael Brown, the initial guiding force behind influential 1960s pop act the Left Banke, has died, the group's Tom Finn announced on Facebook on Thursday.
Brown was the keyboardist and main songwriter for the group, though he left in 1967 after just one album. He co-wrote and wrote, respectively, the band's best-known songs, "Walk Away Renee" and "Pretty Ballerina" -- tracks that also served as the title of their classic debut album. The band's use of strings and harpsichord earned them the label "baroque-pop," while their tuneful sensitivity echoes on in the work of acts such as Belle & Sebastian, Elliott Smith and Jens Lekman, whose "Black Cab" sampled the band's "I've Got Something On My Mind."
Both "Walk Away Renee" and "Pretty Ballerina" were said to be inspired by bassist Tom Finn's girlfriend, Renée Fladen. The group began as teenagers, with Brown, a classically trained keyboardist, just 16 when he joined the act. The Left Banke would release two more albums after Brown's departure: "The Left Bank Too" and 1986's "Strangers on a Train," to which Brown contributed without credit, according to an engineer who worked on the sessions.
Brown went on to work with such acts as Montage, the Beckies and Stories (whose "Brother Louie" was reworked to serve as the "Louie" theme song). A version of the Left Banke continues to tour, and Brown joined them on several occasions in New York in recent years."