Andy Rourke, bassist of The Smiths, has passed away at the age of 59. The news was shared today (May 19) by his former bandmate, Johnny Marr, via social media. According to Marr, Rourke’s passing was the result of an extended battle with pancreatic cancer. The last time Rourke played on stage was at Maddison Square Garden in September 2022 with his band.
Marr posted this on Twitter: “We are deeply saddened to report the passing of Andy Rourke after his prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer. Andy will be cherished for his kindness and beautiful spirit by those who personally knew him, and his exceptional musical talents will be remembered by music enthusiasts. We kindly ask for privacy during this difficult period.”
Rourke is primarily recognized for his role as the lead bassist for The Smiths from 1982 to 1986, and then again from 1986 to 1987. He contributed to all four of The Smiths’ studio albums: ‘The Smiths’ (1984), ‘Meat Is Murder’ (1985), ‘The Queen Is Dead’ (1986), and ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’ (1987).
Beyond The Smiths, Rourke co-founded and performed with supergroup Freebass, which included Peter Hook of New Order and Mani of the Stone Roses. He also recorded with The Pretenders for their 1994 album ‘Last of the Independents’, and collaborated with Killing Joke, as well as Moondog One, featuring former Oasis guitarist Bonehead.
Rourke and Marr met when they were 11 years old, bonding over music at their school. After graduating, Rourke co-founded The Smiths in Manchester in 1982, along with Marr, Morrissey, and drummer Mike Joyce. Johnny Marr: “Andy and I initially connected as schoolboys. We quickly became inseparable, spending our time studying music, enjoying ourselves, and striving to become the best musicians we could be.” Marr and Rourke would maintain their friendship after The Smiths disbanded.
Various musicians and music industry professionals have publicly expressed their condolences following Rourke’s death including Stephen Street, The Smiths’ producer, and fellow bassists Mat Osman from Suede and Tom Chapman from New Order.
Stephen Street wrote: “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.”
Suede bassist Mat Osman: “A total one-off – a rare bassist whose sound you could recognise 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.”
New Order bassist Tom Chapman: “A true inspiration to me and the reason I moved to Manchester to be a musician. One of the best bass players to come out of Manchester. If it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t be in New Order today. My thoughts go to his family and friends.”
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