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Andy Rourke, Bassist for the Smiths, Dead at 59

Andy Rourke, a bassist for the Smiths who propelled the genre of indie pop forward, has died at age 59. The English musician’s death followed “a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer,” bandmate Johnny Marr confirmed on social media.

Born in 1964 in Manchester, Rourke got an early start in music – befriending Marr and starting a band at the age of 11. In 1982, Marr and singer Morrissey teamed up to create the Smiths, then bringing Rourke into the fold as bassist. Rourke was known for his agile, melodic basslines during the beginning of the band’s legacy. As the Smiths explored stranger sounds, Rourke drew from neighboring genres like chamber pop and goth, as heard in “The Queen Is Dead” and Meat Is Murder’s “Barbarism Begins at Home.”

The Smiths released the last of their studio albums, Strangeways Here We Come, in 1987. At the time, band conflicts, including royalty disputes, would soon bring about their demise. Rourke played with Morrissey in the singer’s early solo career and went on to guest with the likes of Sinéad O’Connor and the Pretenders, as well as in the supergroup Freebass with two fellow Manchester bassists: Mani from the Stone Roses and New Order’s Peter Hook.

Despite Marr not loving the idea of Rourke helping Morrissey’s solo career, the two seemingly reconciled after many years apart. Last September, Rourke played with Marr once more – joining the guitarist’s band at Madison Square Garden. It was Rourke’s final gig. That “is a matter of personal pride, as well as sadness,” Marr wrote in his statement. “Andy will always be remembered, as a kind and beautiful soul by everyone who knew him, and as a supremely gifted musician by people who love music.”

In a statement on his website, Morrissey wrote Rourke “will never die as long as his music is heard.” And, on Twitter, Smiths drummer Mike Joyce wrote, “Not only the most talented bass player I’ve ever had the privilege to play with but the sweetest, funniest lad I’ve ever met. Andy’s left the building, but his musical legacy is perpetual. I miss you so much already. Forever in my heart mate.”

See Marr, Joyce, and Morrissey’s tributes to Andy Rourke below.

Sometimes one of the most radical things you can do is to speak clearly. When someone dies, out come the usual blandishments … as if their death is there to be used. I’m not prepared to do this with Andy. I just hope … wherever Andy has gone … that he’s OK. 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. His distinction was so terrific and unconventional and he proved it could be done. He was also very, very funny and very happy, and post-Smiths, he kept a steady identity – never any manufactured moves. I suppose, at the end of it all, we hope to feel that we were valued. Andy need not worry about that.– Steven Patrick Morrissey

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Article Image: Black and white photo of Andy Rourke playing bass. (Via Nalinee Darmrong.)

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About Kathryn Milewski

  • New Jersey