British musician Andy Rourke, best known as the bass player for The Smiths, has died at the age of 59. Rourke’s school friend and former bandmate, guitarist Johnny Marr, confirmed his death in a statement on Twitter. Rourke died in a Manhattan hospital following a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer, per The New York Times.
Marr posted a longer memorial on his Instagram page, as well a number of images of himself and Rourke throughout their friendship. “We were best friends, going everywhere together,” Marr said. “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.”
The Smiths – ‘Vicar in a Tutu’
Marr described the origins of the pair’s musical union. “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,” he said.
The Smiths released four studio albums during this time, including the indie rock classics Meat Is Murder (1985) and The Queen Is Dead (1986).
“I was present at every one of Andy’s bass takes on every Smiths session,” Marr said. “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.”
Rourke’s melodic, walking bass lines helped to distinguish The Smiths’ recorded output. His unique playing is apparent on the band’s best-known singles, including ‘This Charming Man’, ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ and ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’. Marr reflected on one of his favourite moments in the studio with Rourke.
“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,” he said.”It was so impressive that I said to myself ‘I’ll never forget this moment.’”
The Smiths split prior to the release of 1987’s Strangeways, Here We Come, and haven’t performed together since. But Marr and Rourke continued to play together intermittently, including as recently as last September.
“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,” Marr said. “It was a special moment that we shared with my family and his wife and soul mate Francesca.”
While Marr is a universally respected and uncontroversial figure, the same cannot be said of The Smiths’ co-leader, vocalist and lyricist Morrissey. However, Morrissey had nothing but kind words to say about Rourke in the wake of his death.
“He didn’t ever know his own power, and nothing that he played had been played by someone else,” Morrissey said in a statement published on his website. “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.”