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Andy Rourke, Bassist For Rock Band The Smiths Dies At 59

Andy Rourke, Bassist For Rock Band The Smiths Dies At 59

Andy Rourke, the bassist for indie legends the Smiths, has died at the age of 59 years old.

His death was confirmed by guitarist Johnny Marr who said that Rourke died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

“Andy will be remembered as a kind and beautiful soul by those who knew him and as a supremely gifted musician by music fans”.

“We request privacy at this sad time,” he added.

Rourke played on the Smiths’ most famous songs including This Charming Man and There Is a Light That Never Goes Out, as well as solo singles for singer Morrissey after the music group broke up in 1987.

Andy Rourke performed on all four of The Smiths’ studio albums: 1984’s The Smiths, 1985’s Meat Is Murder, 1986’s The Queen Is Dead and 1987’s Strangeways, Here We Come.

He also played in the supergroup Freebass with two other celebrated Mancunian bass guitarists, New Order’s Peter Hook, and the Stone Roses’ Mani, and recorded with Sinéad O’Connor, the Pretenders, Ian Brown and was in the group DARK with the Cranberries vocalist Dolores O’Riordan.

The Smiths band started from the partnership of Marr and Morrissey in 1982. Their first bassist was Steve Pomfret who was then replaced by Dale Hibbert – he played the Smiths’ first gig but was thereafter replaced by Rourke.

The Smiths, pictured in 1985, left to right- Johnny Marr, Morrissey, Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke
The Smiths, pictured in 1985, left to right: Johnny Marr, Morrissey, Mike Joyce, and Andy Rourke

Andy Rourke was a school friend of Johnny Marr since the age of 11 – the pair had formed a short-lived earlier band called “Freak Party”.

“We were best friends, going everywhere together. When we were 15, I moved into his house with him and his three brothers and I soon came to realize that my mate was one of those rare people that absolutely no one doesn’t like. Andy and I spent all our time studying music, having fun, and working on becoming the best musicians we could possibly be,” Marr said in a written tribute to Rourke.

The Smiths recorded their first demo in their classic lineup later that year, including songs such as What Difference Does It Make? which set out the core Smiths sound: waspish vocals from Morrissey, complex and ringing lead guitar from Marr, and a strident, technically brilliant rhythm section in Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce, with Rourke in melodic interplay with Marr and – on tracks such as Barbarism Begins at Home – playing funky bass solos.

Rourke struggled with heroin abuse and was arrested for possession in 1986. He was briefly fired from the band but rejoined after two weeks. “You start getting a bunch of money and don’t know what to do. You start spending it on drugs,” Rourke later said.

Suede bassist Mat Osman paid tribute to Rourke, describing him as “a total one-off” and “a rare bassist whose sound you could recognize straight away”.

“I remember so clearly playing that Barbarism break over and over, trying to learn the riff, and marvelling at this steely funk driving the track along,” he recalled.

The Charlatans singer Tim Burgess added: “Such sad sad news about Andy Rourke – he was an inspirational musician with a style that made so many of us pick up a bass guitar; and the driving force for [benefit concert] Manchester Versus Cancer. Our thoughts are with everyone who knew him. Travel well x.”

The Smiths producer Stephen Street said: “I am so saddened to hear this news. Andy was a superb musician and a lovely guy.

“I haven’t been able to read any other news about details yet but I send my deepest condolences and thoughts to his friends and family. RIP.”

Presenter Terry Christian described Rourke as a “lovely guy”, adding: “Another hole left In the history of Manchester music.”

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