Andy Rourke, bassist for The Smiths, has died aged 59.
Rourke’s death was announced today (May 19) by Johnny Marr on social media. Per Marr’s statement, Rourke died following “a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer”.
Marr also paid tribute to his former bandmate, writing: “Andy will be remembered as a kind and beautiful soul by those who knew him and as a supremely gifted musician by music fans.”
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 pic.twitter.com/KNehQxXoFz
— Johnny Marr (@Johnny_Marr) May 19, 2023
Rourke was best known for being the main bassist for The Smiths between 1982 and 1986, and again from 1986 to 1987. Rourke performed on all four of The Smiths’ studio albums: 1984’s The Smiths, 1985’s Meat Is Murder, 1986’s The Queen Is Dead and 1987’s Strangeways, Here We Come.
Outside of The Smiths, Rourke also formed and performed with supergroup Freebass alongside New Order’s Peter Hook and the Stone Roses’ Mani. He also recorded with The Pretenders for their 1994 record Last Of The Independents, Killing Joke, and Moondog One with former Oasis guitarist Bonehead.
Rourke met Marr at the age of 11, with the pair jamming together in the music room at their school. Four years later, after leaving school, Rourke formed The Smiths in Manchester with Marr, Morrissey and drummer Mike Joyce in 1982.
All three former Smiths have since paid tribute to Rourke.
In a post on his website, Morrissey wrote:
“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.”
Meanwhile, Marr has posted a tribute to Rourke on his Instagram:
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 Madison 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.
Finally, Mike Joyce also posted a tribute on Twitter, describing Rourke as “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.”
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.
— Mike Joyce (@mikejoycedrums) May 19, 2023
Following the news of Rourke’s death, several musicians and members of the industry have paid tribute to the late bassist.
The Smiths producer 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 wrote: “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.”
I’ve just read this tweet from @matosman and 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 #AndyRourke https://t.co/nL8V6dTDlz
— Stephen Street (@StreetStephen) May 19, 2023
Aw man. RIP Andy Rourke. 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. (pic – K Cummins) pic.twitter.com/c3iBdsstpC
— Mat Osman (@matosman) May 19, 2023
Such sad sad news about Andy Rourke – He was an inspirational musician with a style that made so many of us pick up a bass guitar; and the driving force for Manchester Versus Cancer. Our thoughts are with everyone who knew him. Travel well x pic.twitter.com/6hrrfl9bhx
— Tim Burgess (@Tim_Burgess) May 19, 2023
Rest in Peace Andy. 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 friends and family Big Love 💙. TC pic.twitter.com/epTNNDyxJo
— Tom Chapman (@tommychap01) May 19, 2023