“The Smiths” bassist Andy Rourke dies at 59


Cyan Clements depicts a bass guitar engraved on a headstone.

AURELIA HARRISON, Features and Opinions Editor

Andy Rourke, bassist for The Smiths, has passed away at age 59 of pancreatic cancer. He died May 19th, at a hospital in New York. Regarded as the unsung genius of the band, Rourke’s incredible creativity with his bass lines and technical skill were integral to the band’s musical success. 

In a rock band, the role of the bass is to anchor the song, to fill out harmonies and keep the beat steady. As such, the bass line of a rock song is often a repetitive one, and there are plenty of jokes in the musical world poking fun at the average intelligence of a bassist. This stereotype could not apply to Andy Rourke less.

Rourke redefined what it meant to be a bass player. His bass lines were more than an anchor – they were downright melodic. As any bass player will attest to, it is no small feat to learn a Rourke bass line. Usually, the guitar riff gets all the glory, but in any given The Smiths song, focusing on the bass line is equally as musically rewarding.

There is so much to say about Rourke’s musical prowess, but his former bandmate Morrissey put it best, in his statement following Rourke’s death: “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. He was also very, very funny and very happy, and post-Smiths, he kept a steady identity — never any manufactured moves. I suppose, at the end of it all, we hope to feel that we were valued. Andy need not worry about that.”

The quality of Rourke’s bass lines is also owed in part to his friendship with legendary The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. Their friendship started when they were young boys, and they spent much of their youth playing and writing together. They remained best friends during the entirety of The Smiths’ musical career, and were the only pair to remain best friends after the band’s messy breakup. 

Marr released a statement shortly following his 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.”