In the wake of the tragic passing of Andy Rourke, the legendary bassist of The Smiths, a flood of heartfelt tributes have poured in from fans and fellow musicians alike.
Rourke reportedly passed away on Friday, May 19 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York after battling pancreatic cancer at the age of 59.
Former bandmate and guitarist Johnny Marr broke the news of Rourke’s passing while reflecting on the “supremely gifted” musician’s “kind and beautiful soul”.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Andy Rourke after a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer,” Marr wrote in a statement to social media.
“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.”
Born January 17, 1964, in Manchester, England, Rourke played a significant role in shaping The Smiths’ distinctive sound and was an essential member throughout their active years from 1982 to 1987.
Rourke’s interest in music began at a young age when he received an acoustic guitar from his parents. At 11 years old, he struck up a friendship with a young Marr, the pair both attended St Augustine’s Grammar School in Sharston, Manchester, where they would spend their lunch breaks playing guitar together.
When Marr and Rourke formed a band, Rourke, who was initially a guitarist, was invited to try playing bass, a decision he quickly fell in love with and pursued throughout his career.
Rourke left school at the age of 15 and went through a series of low-level jobs while simultaneously playing guitar and bass in various rock bands. During this time, he also joined the short-lived funk band Freak Party, alongside Marr.
Following their collaboration for Freak Party, Marr and Morrissey teamed up once again to establish the renowned band known as The Smiths. Rourke became a member of the group shortly after their first performance in 1982, when Marr made the decision to part ways with their original bassist, Dale Hibbert.
Rourke’s bass lines were an integral part of The Smiths’ music, his playing style often combined elements of funk and pop, adding depth and texture to the band’s songs. Rourke’s contributions can be heard on the band’s iconic albums, including their self-titled debut, Meat Is Murder and The Queen Is Dead among others.
Beyond his musical talents, Rourke’s life has had its share of ups and downs. During his time with The Smiths, he struggled with substance abuse issues, particularly heroin addiction. His addiction ultimately led to tensions within the band and contributed to their breakup in 1987. Despite these challenges, Rourke managed to overcome his addiction and embark on a solo career in music.
Following the disbandment of The Smiths, Rourke worked on various musical projects, collaborating with artists like Morrissey, Sinead O’Connor, and Badly Drawn Boy. He also released solo material and formed the band Freebass with fellow bassists Peter Hook of Joy Division and Mani of The Stone Roses.
As news of Rourke’s passing broke, fans from across the globe took to social media to reflect on his talent and legacy.
A driving force behind some of the most influential albums in British music history.
Rest in peace Andy Rourke, former bassist of The Smiths. A formidable talent we will forever be thankful for.
Photo by Paul Slattery pic.twitter.com/egpegwryd1
— Rough Trade (@RoughTrade) May 19, 2023
RIP to the Legend, Andy Rourke. It’s worth noting that he worked with Morrissey post-The Smiths and was still as effortlessly cool and brilliant on records like “The Last of the Famous International Playboys” pic.twitter.com/Fbj7pgVATx
— kate bush’s husband (@airbagged) May 19, 2023
Andy Rourke. RIP. pic.twitter.com/iBm5Fm9wSs
— ???????????????????????????????????????? ???????? ???????????????????? (@69_scars) 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
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
Rourke is survived by his wife Francesca.