Andy Rourke, bass player in The Smiths, dies aged 59

19 May 2023, 09:42 | Updated: 18 September 2023, 12:21

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By Mayer Nissim

Andy Rourke was a key member of The Smiths.

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Andy Rourke has died at the age of 59.

The musician, best known as the bass player of The Smiths, passed away after a long-term battle with pancreatic cancer.

His friend and former bandmate Johnny Marr broke the news of his death today (May 19) on Twitter.

"It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Andy Rourke after a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer,' Marr said.

"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."

Andy Rourke in New York in 2022
Andy Rourke in New York in 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Marr continued in a longer written tribute: "We were best friends, going everywhere together.

"When we were 15 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."

the smiths - barbarism begins at home - TheTube

He added: "Watching him play those dazzling basslines 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'."

The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead - A Film By Derek Jarman (Official Music Video)

Former Smiths drummer Mike Joyce said: "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."

Smiths producer Stephen Street added: "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."

Rourke had played in the band Freak Party with Marr and future Fall drummer Simon Wolstencroft, before joining Marr, singer Morrissey and drummer Mike Joyce in The Smiths.

He played on all four of the band's albums – The Smiths, Meat Is Murder, The Queen is Dead and Strangeways, Here We Come – before Marr left the group in the summer of 1987 and the band split soon after.

Rourke had briefly been fired from the group in 1986 due to his alleged drug issues, being replaced by Craig Gannon. He returned two weeks later, with Gannon staying till the end of the year as a second guitarist.

Andy Rourke playing with The Smiths in 1984
Andy Rourke playing with The Smiths in 1984. Picture: Getty Images

After the breakup, Rourke played with Sinéad O'Connor, while later Rourke, Joyce and Gannon appeared on two 1989 solo Morrissey singles – 'Interesting Drug' and 'The Last of the Famous International Playboys'.

Rourke also appeared on the following year's 'November Spawned a Monster' and 'Piccadilly Palare', and wrote the music for Morrissey B-sides 'Yes, I Am Blind', 'Girl Least Likely To and 'Get Off The Stage'.

Morrissey - The Last Of The Famous International Playboys

Joyce and Rourke's relationship with Morrissey was severed soon after due to a dispute over royalties and a consequent lawsuit.

While Rourke settled out of court for £83,000 and 10% of future royalties, Joyce continued the suit and was awarded £1 million.

The first Manchester v Cancer concert in January 2006 saw a reunion of Rourke and Johnny Marr to play The Smiths song 'How Soon Is Now?'.

Johnny Marr w Andy Rourke - There Is A Light That Never Goes Out LIVE@ MSG NYC 10/1/2022

Rourke joined Marr on stage several times after, most recently performing 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' and 'How Soon Is Now?' at Madison Square Garden in New York in October 2022.

After The Smiths, Rourke played with Sinéad O'Connor, The Pretenders, Killing Joke and Badly Drawn Boy.

He was a member of indie supergroups Freebass (with Mani and Peter Hook) and Moondog One (with Bonehead, Aziz Ibrahim, Joyce and Gannon). He was also in the band DARK with The Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan.

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