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19 May 2023

Andy Rourke, The Smiths Bassist, Dies Aged 59

Andy Rourke and The Smiths
The Smiths (l-r): Johnny Marr, Morrissey, Mike Joyce, Andy Rourke. Credit: Alamy
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Andy Rourke, the bass player of The Smiths, has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 59.

His former bandmate Johnny Marr broke the news on social media this morning (19 May 2023). Marr wrote, “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.”

Rourke was born in Manchester on 17 January 1964. He met future Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr at the age of 11, bonding over a love of music. The pair began playing guitar together and formed a band while still at school, at which point Joyce switched to bass.

After stints in various short-lived Manchester bands, Joyce joined his old friend when Marr formed The Smiths with singer Morrissey. The Smiths signed to the independent label Rough Trade in 1983 and released their self-titled debut album in 1984. The next few years would see them become one of the most beloved British bands of all time while changing the face of alternative music.

Their second album, Meat Is Murder (1985), hit No 1 in the UK chart while embracing a more political lyrical stance and expanding their sound, helped by Rourke’s nimble basslines. Classic albums The Queen Is Dead (1986) and Strangeways, Here We Come (1987) followed, alongside a string of non-album singles that won them a devoted following (among them This Charming Man, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, How Soon Is Now?, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, Panic, Ask, Girlfriend In A Coma).

In 1987, on the cusp of huge US success, The Smiths broke up. Rourke became an in-demand sideman, recording with Sinead O’Connor, the Pretenders, Killing Joke, Badly Drawn Boy and Ian Brown, among others. In 2005 he formed the band Freebass with fellow bassists Peter Hook (New Order, Joy Division) and Mani (The Stone Roses, Primal Scream) and released a series of EPs followed by the album, It’s A Beautiful Life in 2010. Rourke went on to form DARK with singer Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries and DJ Olé Koretsky. DARK released one album – Science Agrees in 2016.

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