Andy Rourke, bassist for the Smiths, dies aged 59
Andy Rourke, the renowned bassist of the iconic band the Smiths, has passed away at the age of 59. The saddening news was shared by guitarist Johnny Marr on social media, expressing deep sadness over the loss. Rourke had been battling pancreatic cancer for an extended period. Remembered as a kind-hearted and beautiful soul by those who knew him and admired as an extraordinarily talented musician by fans, Andy’s legacy will live on. The family and close associates of Rourke have requested privacy during this mournful time.
During his time with the Smiths, Rourke contributed to the band’s timeless repertoire, including hits like “This Charming Man” and “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.” His distinctive melodic style left an indelible mark on their music. Following the group’s disbandment, Rourke continued collaborating with frontman Morrissey on his solo projects, showcasing his remarkable skills.
Aside from his work with the Smiths, Rourke was also a part of the supergroup Freebass, which featured other celebrated bass guitarists from Manchester, such as Peter Hook from New Order and Mani from the Stone Roses. He collaborated with numerous artists, including Sinéad O’Connor, the Pretenders, Ian Brown, and Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries during his tenure with the group DARK.
The Smiths, formed in 1982, revolved around the partnership of Johnny Marr and Morrissey. Rourke joined the band as the bassist, having been friends with Marr since they were eleven years old. Their bond and shared passion for music resulted in relentless exploration and improvement of their musical abilities. Marr fondly recalls their friendship, emphasizing Rourke’s likable personality that endeared him to everyone.
The Smiths’ debut demo, recorded in the same year they formed, showcased their distinctive sound, with Morrissey’s distinctive vocals, Marr’s intricate guitar work, and Rourke’s technically brilliant basslines. Their music, characterized by a fusion of wistful lyrics and jangly guitar melodies, became emblematic of British indie music in the 1980s. The band produced four acclaimed albums, including “The Smiths,” “Meat Is Murder,” “The Queen Is Dead,” and “Strangeways, Here We Come,” along with several highly regarded singles.
Throughout his career, Rourke faced personal challenges, including struggles with heroin addiction that led to his temporary departure from the Smiths in 1986. However, he rejoined the band after two weeks, and the group endured the impact of Marr’s departure in 1987, which ultimately led to their breakup. Rourke reflects on that period as traumatic for everyone involved, unsure of how to navigate the sudden changes and severed connections.
Despite the hardships, Rourke’s contributions to the music world persisted. He collaborated with Morrissey on solo endeavors, albeit causing tension within the band. Legal disputes followed in 1989, as Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce sought a fair share of the group’s earnings. Rourke settled quickly, while Joyce pursued the lawsuit and received substantial backdated royalties and a 25% share thereafter. The legal proceedings notably exposed the judge’s scathing description of Morrissey’s character.
In addition to his collaborations, Rourke played with Badly Drawn Boy and joined their touring band. His latest venture, Blitz Vega, featured Kav Sandhu from the Happy Mondays. Fellow musicians have taken to the internet to pay their respects, recognizing Rourke’s unique bass sound and the profound influence he had on aspiring bassists.
Johnny Marr’s tribute to Rourke reminisced about their shared experiences, particularly recalling a mesmerizing moment when Rourke played his bass during the recording of “The Queen Is Dead.” The memory left an everlasting impression on Marr, capturing the essence of Rourke’s exceptional talent.