Andy Rourke death: The Smiths bassist dies aged 59 as Johnny Marr pays tribute
The Smiths bassist Andy Rourke has died aged 59 after a ‘lengthy’ battle with pancreatic cancer.
His former bandmate Johnny Marr announced the tragic news on Twitter this morning, describing Rourke as a ‘supremely gifted musician’.
He continued: ‘It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Andy Rourke after a lengthy illness 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.
Along with drummer Mike Joyce, Rourke provided a pounding and melodic rhythm section underlying Marr’s pioneering chords as the Smiths became one of Britain’s most influential bands during the 1980s.
Smiths guitarist Andy Rourke has died at the age of 59, it was announced this morning
The Smiths outside the Salford Lads Club. Pictured left to right – Marr, Morrissey, Rourke and Joyce
Rourke with his wife Francesca Mor (left) and Martene Rourke (right) at a premiere in New York in October 2022
Suede guitarist Mat Osman, brother of Pointless presenter Richard, today paid tribute to a ‘total one off’.
He tweeted: ‘Aw man. RIP Andy Rourke. A total one-off – a rare bassist whose sound you could recognize straight away.
‘I remember so clearly playing that Barbarism broke over and over, trying to learn the riff, and marveling at this steely funk driving the track along.’
Music producer Stephen Street, who worked with the band, said he was “so saddened” to hear the news.
He wrote: ‘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.
Born on January 17, 1964, to an English mother and an Irish father, Rourke showed a passion for music from an early age and learned the guitar aged seven.
He met Marr at 11, with the pair striking up a bond and jamming together on their guitars in the music room at their school.
After leaving school at 15, Rourke formed The Smiths in Manchester with Marr, Morrissey and drummer Mike Joyce in 1982.
The bassist performs on stage at the Hammersmith Palais in West London on March 12, 1984
From left to right: Marr, Morrissey, Mike Joyce and Rourke before their first show in Detroit during the 1985 Meat Is Murder Tour
His former bandmate Johnny Marr announced the tragic news on Twitter, describing Rourke as a ‘supremely gifted musician’
The group became the seminal Manchester act of the 1980s and an icon of British alternative rock, with hits including This Charming Man, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now and Girlfriend In A Coma.
Rourke was briefly sacked for two weeks in 1986 for taking heroin addiction but returned to record The Queen Is Dead album the same year.
The band went on to release four albums and earn three top 10 hits between 1982–1987 before a dispute over royalties from their now cavernous repertoire led to a bitter legal dispute.
Their demise was one of the most spectacular in the UK music world, although Rourke settled out of court and his friendship with Marr survived the case.
But Morrissey, who has increasingly flirted with far-right politics in recent years, was virulent about his former band-mates before adopting a more conciliatory tone in his book ‘Autobiography’.
Rourke later went on to perform solo singles with Morrisey. He also played with the likes of Sinead O’Connor and Ian Brown from The Stone Roses.
Rourke formed The Smiths in Manchester with Marr, Morrissey and drummer Mike Joyce in 1982.
Marr and Rourke on stage during the ‘Manchester Versus Cancer’ charity concert, held at the Manchester Evening News Arena
Morrisey reunited the band’s feud last year with an open letter attacking Marr on his Morrissey Central blog.
‘This is not a rant or an hysterical bombast. It is a polite and calmly measured request: Would you please stop mentioning my name in your interviews?’ he said.
‘Would you please, instead, discuss your own career, your own unstoppable solo achievements and your own music? If you could, would you please just leave me out of it?
‘The fact is: you don’t know me. You know nothing of my life, my intentions, my thoughts, my feelings. Yet you talk as if you were my personal psychiatrist with consistent and uninterrupted access to my instincts.’