Andy Rourke, Bassist for the Smiths, Dies at 59

Andy Rourke, the bass player for the Smiths, one of the most influential bands of the 1980s, died early Friday in New York. He was 59.

His death from pancreatic cancer, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, was confirmed by a representative.

Mr. Rourke’s former bandmate Johnny Marr, the Smiths’s guitarist, also announced Mr. Rourke’s death on social media.

“Andy will be remembered as a kind and beautiful soul,” Mr. Marr said, “and as a supremely gifted musician.”

Mr. Rourke played on all of the British band’s most well-known songs, including “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” and “This Charming Man,” helping turn the Smiths into a cult act in the United States and a chart-topping group in his home country.

Robert Palmer, reviewing the band’s 1984 debut album, “The Smiths,” for The New York Times, said that “their music, their lyrics, their overall sound and stance, are individual and quite extraordinary.”

Mr. Rourke’s melodious bass playing was always “habitually unsung,” wrote David Cavanagh, an Irish journalist, in 1993, but it was also “incontrovertibly top drawer.” Morrissey, the band’s lead vocalist, once said that Mr. Rourke was good enough to have been in Elvis’s band, Mr. Cavanagh added.

The Smiths formed in 1982 in Manchester, England. The group had a couple of bassists before Mr. Marr asked the teenage Mr. Rourke, a childhood friend, to join. In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, Mr. Rourke recalled playing his first show with the band in a tiny gay club. The Smiths always “rehearsed to death,” he said, so it was unsurprising when they quickly soared in popularity.

Within two years, the Smiths had their first top 10 hit in Britain with “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” but success brought problems, including Mr. Rourke’s developing a heroin habit. “You start getting a bunch of money and you don’t know what to do,” he recalled in a 2011 interview: “You start spending it on drugs.”

In 1986, Morrissey fired Mr. Rourke because of his drug use, reportedly via postcard, but he soon rejoined.

The Smiths broke up for good in 1987 having released four albums. Two years later, Mr. Rourke and Mike Joyce, the band’s drummer, began legal proceedings against their former bandmates, claiming they had been equal partners and should have been paid a bigger split of the royalties (they had been given only 10 percent).

Mr. Rourke, who went on to play in several other bands with limited success, dropped his case after being offered 83,000 pounds (about $100,000). But Mr. Joyce went to court, where a judge found in his favor, saying that Morrissey should pay him compensation of around a million pounds, according to news reports from the time.

In 2007, Mr. Rourke told the BBC that the Smiths’s breakup “still smarts a bit.” But, he added, at least the tunes he contributed to “stand the test of time.”

A list of survivors was not immediately available.

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