Andy Rourke, the bassist in seminal British indie rock band The Smiths, has died age 59. The news was announced on Friday by Rourke's former bandmate Johnny Marr, who paid tribute to "a kind and beautiful soul" and confirmed Rourke passed away following a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.
In his statement, Marr wrote: "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."
Smiths frontman Morrissey has also paid tribute to his former bandmate, writing, "I just hope … wherever Andy has gone … that he's OK. He will never die as long as his music is heard," in a message shared on his official website. "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."
Rourke joined The Smiths shortly after the band was formed in 1982 by his school friend Marr and Morrissey. The bass player is credited with gifting the band the disco-indebted rhythm on which Marr and Morrissey's songwriting flourished. He played on the Manchester band's classic albums The Smiths, Meat Is Murder, The Queen Is Dead, and Strangeways, Here We Come as well as indie disco staples "This Charming Man" and "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out."
The Smiths split in 1987 and Rourke went on to play as part of Morrissey's solo band, something that caused a temporary fall-out between the bassist and Marr. The complicated post-band relations were worsened when Rourke, alongside Smiths drummer Mike Joyce, sued Morrissey in 1989 over rights to the band's performance and recording royalties.
In 2005 Rourke formed the bassist supergroup Freebass alongside New Order’s Peter Hook and the Stone Roses’ Mani. He also recorded with artists including Sinéad O’Connor, the Pretenders, Ian Brown, Cranberries vocalist Dolores O’Riordan, and Badly Drawn Boy.
Last September, Rourke joined Johnny Marr on stage at Madison Square Garden in what proved to be his final gig. That New York performance “is a matter of personal pride, as well as sadness,” Marr wrote in his statement. “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.”