The Smiths bassist Andy Rourke died after a cancer battle at age 59, guitarist Johnny Marr announced.
Rourke joined the English rock band after their first show in 1982 and appeared on all four of their albums released between 1984-87. He continued working with singer Morrissey for several years, and also collaborated with the Pretenders and Killing Joke, among others. He later became a host on the U.K. radio station XFM.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Andy Rourke after a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer,” Marr wrote on social media. “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.”
In his own statement, Morrissey proclaimed that Rourke “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.”
Drummer Mike Joyce noted, “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.”
Born in Manchester in 1964, Rourke started playing guitar at the age of 7 and met Marr at school. The pair spent years experimenting with music together, with Rourke moving to bass early on. He formed Freak Party with Marr and later followed him to the Smiths. He was briefly fired from the group as a result of heroin addiction but rehired weeks later.
In a 2004 interview with Mojo, Rourke recalled that “it all clicked” when he played with the Smiths for the first time. “Literally six months later we were on Top of the Pops,” he said. It took a while for Joyce to settle with him, but Rourke reflected that he “had something to prove to Mike, and he had something to prove back. It created quite a dynamic but aggressive sound. … There was nothing contrived about it. We were dueling off each other.”
He added, “We were a gang, a very tight band of brothers. When we were at our peak nobody could penetrate that – we were united in what we were doing. I think that got us through the pressures of getting famous, management, record companies. We were always tight, and nobody could chip away at that.”
In Memoriam: 2023 Deaths
A look at those we’ve lost.