Sad News: Andy Rourke, Bassist of the Smiths, Passes Away at 59
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Andy Rourke, the esteemed bassist of indie legends the Smiths, has passed away at the age of 59. The announcement came from guitarist Johnny Marr through a heartfelt message on social media. Marr expressed deep sadness as he informed the public about Andy’s demise, revealing that he had been battling pancreatic cancer for an extended period. Andy’s memory will be cherished by those who knew him as a kind and beautiful soul, while music enthusiasts will forever recognize him as an extraordinarily talented musician. In light of this tragic event, the family requests privacy during this difficult time. Rourke’s remarkable bass contributions can be heard on The Smiths’ timeless discography, including iconic tracks like “This Charming Man” and “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.” Following the disbandment of the group, he also collaborated with frontman Morrissey on his solo endeavors
In their classic lineup, The Smiths recorded their first demo the same year, featuring notable tracks like “What Difference Does It Make?” that showcased the signature sound of the band. This sound encompassed Morrissey’s distinctive vocals, Marr’s intricate and resonant lead guitar, and the technically brilliant rhythm section of Rourke on bass and drummer Mike Joyce. Rourke’s melodic interplay with Marr, along with his standout funky bass solos on songs like “Barbarism Begins at Home,” contributed to the band’s defining sound. Their music went on to define British indie music in the 1980s, resulting in four acclaimed albums – “The Smiths,” “Meat Is Murder,” “The Queen Is Dead,” and “Strangeways, Here We Come” – along with well-regarded standalone singles.
During this time, Rourke faced struggles with heroin use and was arrested for possession in 1986. He was briefly dismissed from the band, later rejoining after two weeks. The band’s guitarist, Craig Gannon, temporarily filled his spot, playing rhythm guitar. Reflecting on his drug use, Rourke admitted to the impact of sudden wealth and the resulting indulgence in drugs. Marr’s departure in 1987 had a profound effect, leading to the eventual breakup of the band. Rourke described the aftermath as a difficult and traumatic period for everyone involved, unsure of how to navigate the situation.
In 1989, Rourke collaborated on solo songs with Morrissey, including “The Last of the Famous International Playboys” and “Interesting Drug.” These collaborations caused strain within the band, with Joyce feeling a sense of betrayal towards Marr. Rourke and Joyce pursued legal action against Morrissey and Marr in 1989, asserting their rights to an equal share of earnings. Rourke settled quickly for a lump sum, while Joyce continued the lawsuit and ultimately received backdated royalties and a 25% share thereafter. The high-profile case famously featured a judge’s characterization of Morrissey as “devious, truculent, and unreliable.” Rourke later filed for bankruptcy in 1999.
In addition to these musical endeavors, Rourke went on to collaborate with other renowned Manchester musician Badly Drawn Boy and joined their touring band. His most recent project was Blitz Vega, a band formed with Kav Sandhu of Happy Mondays.
Following Rourke’s passing, online tributes poured in, including one from Suede bassist Mat Osman, who hailed Rourke as a unique talent with an instantly recognizable bass sound. Tim Burgess of The Charlatans described Rourke as an inspirational musician whose style motivated many bass guitar enthusiasts. Marr also paid tribute, reminiscing about the privilege of witnessing Rourke’s dazzling basslines and recalling a specific moment during the mixing of “The Queen Is Dead” when Rourke’s bass playing left an indelible impression on him.