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RIP Andy Rourke of the Smiths, a ‘supremely gifted musician’ who ‘didn’t even know his own power’

The Smiths were only around for a short window of time but left an incredible mark on music. If you’re a music lover, it’s safe to assume at some point in your life you went through a “Smiths” phase. Morrissey’s distinct vocals, Johnny Marr’s guitar riffs, Mike Joyce’s drumming, and the melodic and driving bass lines from Andy Rourke make for a unique musical experience.

Rourke passed away this week at age 59, after battling pancreatic cancer. His death was announced on social media by his Smiths bandmate Johnny Marr, who first met Rourke when they were in their teens. “We played in various bands around South Manchester before making our reputations with the Smiths,” Marr wrote in a social media post, “and it was on those Smiths records that Andy reinvented what it is to be a bass guitar player. … Andy will always be remembered, as a kind and beautiful soul by everyone who knew him, and as a supremely gifted musician by people who love music.”

smiths sound of album cover art

“He didn’t ever know his own power,” wrote Smiths vocalist Morrissey on his website, “and nothing that he played had been played by someone else. His distinction was so terrific and unconventional and he proved it could be done. He was also very, very funny and very happy,”

With Andy Rourke’s passing, I paid tribute to him this morning by playing three songs from the Smiths. His bass playing was so important to the sound of the Smiths, it was easy to find songs that showcased him.

I played “Barbarism Begins at Home,” “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” and “This Charming Man.” Each one of these songs highlights Rourke’s amazing skills.

My experience with the Smiths is probably like most people, discovered them in my teenage years and couldn’t stop listening. The Queen Is Dead album was a massive part of my music discovery. It’s easy to focus on Morrissey’s vocals and Johnny Marr’s guitar riffs, but the reason you can’t stop tapping your foot to The Smiths is because of the brilliant basslines from Andy Rourke.


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