Tributes to late Smiths bassist Andy Rourke poured in after the rock world was saddened on Friday morning (May 19) after the musician died at 59 following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He had a major influence on the Smiths despite a brief career that lasted only five years and notes of condolence and praise came in from contemporaries as well as many younger bands whose music was undeniably impacted by the beloved ’80s English indie band that put a jangly sheen to some of the most misanthropic lyrics in rock history.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Andy Rourke after a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer,” wrote bandmate and Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr in announcing Rourke’s death.
“Andy will be remembered as a kind and beautiful soul by those who knew him and as a supremely gifted musician by music fans.”
Drummer Mike Joyce wrote:
“Not only the most talented bass player I’ve ever had the privilege to play with but the sweetest, funniest lad I’ve ever met. Andy’s left the building, but his musical legacy is perpetual. I miss you so much already. Forever in my heart mate.”
Morrissey posted his own tribute on Friday morning, writing that he hoped, “wherever Andy has gone… that he’s OK. He will never die as long as his music is heard. He didn’t ever know his own power, 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.”
Charlatans singer Tim Burgess paid homage to the deep impact Joyce had on him and his band, writing:
“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.”
British folk singer Billy Bragg fondly recalled touring with Rourke and Marr, saying:
“He was a lovely guy and an amazing bass player. My condolences to his family and friends.” On the other end of the music spectrum, “Never Gonna Give You Up” pop singer Rick Astley recalled meeting Rourke and Joyce in Los Angeles in the 1980s, praising them for being “lovely guys” and for making time to chat with “a kid from Newton-le-Willows,” calling them “heroes.”
Suede bassist Mat Osman paid homage to the Smiths’ — and Rourke’s — unique sound, writing:
“A total one-off – a rare bassist whose sound you could recognise straight away. I remember so clearly playing that ‘Barbarism [Begins at Home]’ break over and over, trying to learn the riff, and marvelling at this steely funk driving the track along.”
Belle and Sebastian singer Stuart Murdoch called Rourke a “bloody legend,” while Travis singer Fran Healy seconded, dubbing the bassist a “lovely gentle soul” and Stone Roses vocalist Ian Brown remembered meeting Rourke at a party when he was 17 and remaining friends with him afterwards.
“One of the highlights of my music life was Andy playing on my The World is Yours album and accompanying me onstage on a UK tour and my first show in MOSCOW,” he said. “Belly laughs all the way. RiP Brother X.”
Tributes also came in from New Order guitarist Phil Cunningham and bassist Tom Chapman and Rough Trade Records, which released the band’s self-titled 1984 debut and their other three studio albums, Meat Is Murder, The Queen Is Dead and Strangeways, Here We Come.
Marr posted a much longer tribute on Instagram, writing:
“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, writing that throughout their teens the pair played in a variety of bands around South Manchester before making their reputations from 1982-1987.
“And it was on those Smiths records that Andy reinvented what it is to be a bass guitar player,” he said.
”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.’”
The guitarist said they stayed friends over the years, no matter where they were or what was going on in their lives.
“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 Maddison Square Garden in September 2022,” he said. “It was a special moment that we shared with my family and his wife and soul mate Francesca. 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. Well done Andy. We’ll miss you brother.”