Pat DiNizio, longtime frontman of the long-running New Jersey rock band the Smithereens, died yesterday, as Variety reports. The band made the announcement on their Facebook page, writing, “Pat was looking forward to getting back on the road and seeing his many fans and friends.” No cause of death has been given, but DiNizio had been suffering from health problems in recent years, including nerve damage that cost him the use of his right had. DiNizio was 62.
The Smithereens formed in 1980 in New Jersey, after DiNizio, a Scotch Plains native, placed an ad in a local paper. The band took their time in developing their jangly, lightly psychedelic, melodically sharp power-pop sound, signing with the Enigma label and releasing their debut album Especially For You in 1986. That album produced the rock-radio hits “Blood And Roses” and “Behind The Wall Of Sleep”; Kurt Cobain later named it one of his favorite albums.
The Smithereens remained fixtures on modern-rock radio well into the ’90s, releasing a number of singles — “Only A Memory,” “A Girl Like You,” “Yesterday Girl,” “Top Of The Pops” — that instantly felt familiar. The band were never especially innovative, but they had big, muscular hooks for days, and looking back on their career, it’s striking just how focused and consistent those singles were. Those songs hold up very, very well today.
The Smithereens never broke up; they continued releasing music over the past few decades; their last album, the appropriately titled 2001, came out in 2001. DiNizio also released four solo albums, starting in 1997; his last was 2009’s Buddy Holly. DiNizio also made an unsuccessful run for a New Jersey Senate seat, under the Reform Party ticket, in 2000. He published the book Confessions Of A Rock Star, in 2009.
Below, watch some Smithereens videos.