Andy Rourke, the bass player of the iconic Manchester band The Smiths, has passed away at the age of 59 due to pancreatic cancer. Rourke was known for his distinctive melodic style that was integral to the band’s sound. He played in The Smiths from 1982 to 1987 alongside Morrissey, Johnny Marr, and Mike Joyce. Rourke’s funky twangs were a key component of classic singles such as ‘This Charming Man’ and ‘William, It Was Really Nothing,’ as well as much-loved album tracks such as ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ and ‘The Headmaster Ritual.’
Rourke was born in Manchester and was the only member of The Smiths not of fully Irish descent. He learned to play bass by playing along to records such as David Bowie’s ‘Low.’ Rourke and Marr formed Freak Party with the future Fall drummer Simon Wolstencroft, but the band proved short-lived. When the band’s original bassist, Dale Hibbert, did not work out, Rourke was invited in. Rourke played on all The Smiths’ classic albums, including ‘The Smiths,’ ‘Meat Is Murder,’ ‘The Queen Is Dead,’ and ‘Strangeways Here We Come,’ as well as 24 singles and other key releases such as the compilation ‘Hatful of Hollow.’
After The Smiths disbanded, Rourke played with Morrissey on his solo releases, including ‘The Last of the Famous International Playboys,’ and even co-wrote with the singer. Rourke settled out of court and in 2006 he rejoined Marr onstage at the Manchester v Cancer concert, which the bassist had helped to organize. Rourke’s impact as a member of The Smiths overshadowed his other substantial contributions. He appeared on Sinéad O’Connor’s classic 1990 album ‘I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,’ played with the Pretenders, Killing Joke, and Ian Brown, toured with Badly Drawn Boy, formed Moondog One with ex-Oasis guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs, and was part of the three-bass-guitar band Freebass with Joy Division/New Order’s Peter Hook and the Stone Roses’ Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield. In 2016, he played in DARK, a band including the former Cranberries singer, Dolores O’Riordan.
Rourke’s death is a great loss to the music industry and his fans. He will be remembered as a beautiful soul by those who knew him and as a supremely gifted musician by music fans.