The Smiths’ Andy Rourke Dead At 59

The Smiths’ Andy Rourke Dead At 59

Andy Rourke, the musician best known for his time as the bassist for the Smiths, has died. Rourke’s former bandmate and childhood friend Johnny Marr announced the news of Rourke’s passing early this morning. Rourke was 59.

Smiths singer Morrissey shared a tribute to Rourke today on his website:

Sometimes one of the most radical things you can do is to speak clearly. When someone dies, out come the usual blandishments … as if their death is there to be used. I’m not prepared to do this with Andy. I just hope … wherever Andy has gone … that he’s OK. He 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 offered kind words on Twitter:

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.

Marr also posted a lengthy tribute on Instagram:

Andy Rourke RIP.

Andy and I met as schoolboys in 1975. We were best friends, going everywhere together. When we were fifteen I moved into his house with him and his three brothers and I soon came to realise that my mate was one of those rare people that absolutely no one doesn’t like.

Andy and I spent all our time studying music, having fun, and working on becoming the best musicians we could possibly be. Back then Andy was a guitar player and a good one at that, but it was when he picked up the bass that he would find his true calling and his singular talent would flourish.

Throughout our teens we played in various bands around South Manchester before making our reputations with The Smiths from 1982 to 1987, and it was on those Smiths records that Andy reinvented what it is to be a bass guitar player.

I was present at every one of Andy’s bass takes on every Smiths session. Sometimes I was there as the producer and sometimes just as his proud mate and cheerleader. Watching him play those dazzling baselines was an absolute privilege and genuinely something to behold. But one time which always comes to mind was when I sat next to him at the mixing desk watching him play his bass on the song The Queen Is Dead. It was so impressive that I said to myself ‘I’ll never forget this moment.’

We maintained our friendship over the years, no matter where we were or what was happening and it is a matter of personal pride as well as sadness that the last time Andy played on stage was with me and my band at Maddison Square Garden in September 2022.
It was a special moment that we shared with my family and his wife and soul mate Francesca.

Andy will always be remembered, as a kind and beautiful soul by everyone who knew him, and as a supremely gifted musician by people who love music.

Well done Andy. We’ll miss you brother.

Johnny x

Andy Rourke grew up working-class in Manchester, and he became close friends with Johnny Marr when both of them were kids. As teenager, Marr and Rourke played together in a band called Freak Party; they recorded a demo in 1981. Rourke dropped out of school at 15. Marr formed the Smiths with singer Stephen Patrick Morrissey in 1982, and the band went through a few different bass players in their early days. By the end of the year, Marr invited Rourke to join the band.

In 1983, the Smiths signed with Rough Trade and released their debut single “Hand In Glove.” The band didn’t last long, but they developed a full aesthetic around Marr’s jangly, enveloping guitars and Morrissey’s arch, poetic lyrics. Rourke’s lush, melodic basslines were a key part of the band’s sound. “This Charming Man,” the Smiths’ second single, was a top-40 hit in the UK, and the band went on to record a whole lot of classics before breaking up in 1987. During his time in the band, Rourke was addicted to heroin, and he was briefly fired from the band in 1986 before being brought back in a few weeks later.

After the Smiths’ breakup, Andy Rourke and Smiths drummer Mike Joyce played on Morrissey’s first few solo singles, and Rourke played on the Sinéad O’Connor album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. In 1989, Rourke and Joyce sued Morrissey and Marr for a larger part of the Smiths’ royalties. Rourke settled the lawsuit out of court early, getting a smaller part of those royalties than Joyce. Rourke declared bankruptcy in 1999.

Rourke continued to play with bands like the Pretenders and Killing Joke. He formed the all-bassist supergroup Freebass with Peter Hook, of Joy Division and New Order, and Mani, of the Stone Roses and Primal Scream. He also teamed up with the late Cranberries leader Dolores O’Riordan to form the duo D.A.R.K. Last year, Rourke reunited with Johnny Marr onstage at Madison Square Garden, playing two Smiths songs with Marr and the Killers. Around the same time, Marr played on “Strong Forever,” a single from Rourke’s new band Blitz Vega; it was their first time playing on a record together in 35 years.

Below, check out some of Andy Rourke’s work.

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