Smiths Bassist Dies at 59

Morrissey, Johnny Marr lead tribute to Andy Rourke
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2023 10:36 AM CDT
Smiths Bassist Andy Rourke Dead at 59
The Smith's Andy Rourke DJs at the Pyramid Club on Avenue A in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014.   (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Stoli Vodka/AP Images)

Heaven knows a lot of fans of the Smiths are miserable now. Andy Rourke, the group's bass player, died from pancreatic cancer early Friday in New York, the New York Times reports. He was 59. Guitarist Johnny Marr said he died after a lengthy illness. "Andy will be remembered as a kind and beautiful soul by those who knew him and as a supremely gifted musician by music fans," Marr tweeted. Singer Morrissey also paid tribute, saying, "He will never die as long as his music is heard. He didn’t ever know his own power, and nothing that he played had been played by someone else."

Rourke joined what would become one of the decade's most celebrated bands in Manchester, England in 1982 and remained with them until they split up in 1987, though Morrissey briefly fired him for using heroin. After the split, he played on some of Morrissey's solo records and also recorded with artists including the Pretenders, Killing Joke, and Sinead O'Connor, the BBC reports. Two years after the Smiths split, Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce sued Morrissey and Marr, saying they should have received more than 10% of royalties, the Times reports. Rourke dropped the case after a settlement of around $100,000. Alexis Petridis at the Guardian praises the "complex but fluid" style Rourke developed and says the Smiths would not have been the same band without him.

In a Facebook post, Marr said they met as schoolboys in 1975 and they played in various bands before the Smiths. In the band, "Andy reinvented what it is to be a bass player," he wrote. "I was present at every one of Andy's bass takes on every Smiths record. Sometimes I was there as the producer and sometimes just as his proud mate and cheerleader." Marr said they maintained their friendship over the years and it is "a matter of personal pride as well as sadness" that the last time Rourke played on stage was with him and his band at Madison Square Garden in September last year. (More obituary stories.)

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