Kerri-Ann Roper, PA Entertainment Editor
The Smiths’ bassist Andy Rourke has died aged 59, his former bandmate Johnny Marr has said.The Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr has paid tribute to his former bandmate Andy Rourke.
Writing on Twitter on Friday morning, Marr said Rourke died “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.”
Musicians including The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess and folk singer Billy Bragg joined Marr and others in remembering Rourke.
In an Instagram post, Marr said it was an “absolute privilege” to play alongside Rourke.
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
He wrote about moving in with Rourke as a boy and how he was “one of those rare people that absolutely no one doesn’t like”.
He said: “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.”
Marr continued: “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.'”
Marr also recalled the final time the pair played together – in New York City last year.
“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,” he wrote.
“It was a special moment that we shared with my family and his wife and soul mate Francesca.”
He added: “Well done Andy. We’ll miss you brother.”
With the original line-up comprised of Rourke, frontman Morrissey, Marr and drummer Mike Joyce, The Smiths had a string of hits in the 1980s with songs like There Is A Light That Never Goes Out and This Charming Man.
The demise of the Manchester four-piece was one of the most spectacular in the UK music world, the fallout of which saw Joyce and Rourke taking Morrissey and Marr to court over royalties in 1989.
The band, powered by the songwriting partnership of Marr and Morrissey, split up in 1987, having released albums including The Smiths and Meat is Murder and earning three top 10 hits.
Rourke’s career extended beyond The Smiths, playing alongside The Pretenders and Sinead O’Connor, as well as with the supergroup Freebass, which included Gary Mounfield from the Stone Roses and Peter Hook from New Order.
Bragg’s tribute on Twitter said: “I have great memories of him playing with Johnny Marr and myself on the Red Wedge tour. He was a lovely guy and an amazing bass player.”
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
Burgess, meanwhile, hailed Rourke as “an inspirational musician”, tweeting: “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”.