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The Smiths bass player Andy Rourke dies after battle with pancreatic cancer

Andy Rourke on stage with Badly Drawn Boy during the Manchester Versus Cancer charity concert in 2006 (PA) (PA Archive)
Andy Rourke on stage with Badly Drawn Boy during the Manchester Versus Cancer charity concert in 2006 (PA) (PA Archive)

Legendary bass player for The Smiths Andy Rourke has died after a “lengthy” cancer battle aged 59, according to his bandmate.

Former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr tweeted on Friday morning: “It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Andy Rourke after a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer.

“Andy will be remembered as a kind and beautiful soul by those who knew him and as a supremely gifted musician by music fans.

“We request privacy at this sad time.”

Andy Rourke (right) with The Smiths (DM)
Andy Rourke (right) with The Smiths (DM)

Rourke’s melodic bass lines formed a backbone to The Smiths sound with attention usually going towards outspoken singer Morrissey and fellow songwriter Marr.

Schoolfriends with Johnny Marr since the age of 11 the pair played guitar at lunch breaks before Marr convinced Andy to try out bass and he “found his true calling”.

“We were best friends, going everywhere together,” Marr recalled. “When we were 15 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.”

Rourke joined The Smiths after its first gig starring on hits How Soon Is Now, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out and This Charming Man.

He was briefly sacked from the band due to a heroin addiction but returned to record what is regarded as their finest album The Queen Is Dead.

Marr recalled in an emotional Instagram post: “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 bass player stayed on until The Smiths’ acrimonious split soon after the critically acclaimed Strangeways, Here We Come in 1987.

He went on to play bass for Sinead O’Connor, Ian Brown, Badly Drawn Boy and even Morrissey.

The Smiths lasted just five blistering years (Rough Trade)
The Smiths lasted just five blistering years (Rough Trade)

In the 90s Rourke launched a lawsuit against former friends Morrissey and Marr who each took 40 per cent of the performance and recording royalties, leaving the bassist and drummer Mike Joyce with just 10 per cent each.

During the hearings, Joyce’s barrister famously quipped that the rhythm section were being treated as session musicians and were as “readily replaceable as the parts in a lawnmower.”

His tragic death came just months after Marr and Rourke reunited on record for the first time in 35 years for the track “Strong Forever” by Blitz Vega, Rourke’s new band with fellow Mancunian Happy Mondays guitarist Kav Blaggers.

Johnny Marr added: “We maintained our friendship over the years, no matter where we were or what was happening and 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.

“It was a special moment that we shared with my family and his wife and soul mate Francesca.”

He added: “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.”

Morrissey released an eloquent tribute on his websites saying he hopes “wherever Andy has gone that he’s ok.”

He added: “Andy 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.”

Mike Joyce, paid tribute on Twitter writing: “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.”

Stone Roses singer Ian Brown added to the chorus of tributes online, posting: “I first met Andy aged 17 at a party.

“We remained pals. 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. Belly laughs all the way. RiP Brother X”

Suede bassist Mat Osman, was in awe at the musician’s talent, tweeting: “Aw man. 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.”

The Smiths producer Stephen Street, added: “I am so saddened to hear this news! Andy was a superb musician and a lovely guy. I haven’t been able to read any other news about details yet but I send my deepest condolences and thoughts to his friends and family. RIP”