Andy Rourke Of The Smiths Has Died

May 19, 2023 / Posted by:

Many of us woke up to the news of sadness this morning that Andy Rourke, bassist for the Smiths, has died. And we’re going to need another cabinet for the Fuck Cancer files because Andy died from pancreatic cancer. He was only 59.

Andy Rourke’s bandmate and longtime friend, Johnny Marr, delivered the tragic news on Twitter last night:

“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.”

This morning, Johnny posted a longer tribute to Andy on Instagram, writing about their times growing up and how he watched Andy evolve into a bass legend:

Morrissey honored Andy on his website, and I braced myself before reading his words. Because after the Smiths broke up, a legal fight over royalties went down, and shit got ugly with Morrissey downplaying Andy Rourke’s important contribution to the band while lifting himself as the reason why they got big. But Morrissey kept it classy while remembering Andy:

“Sometimes one of the most radical things you can do is to speak clearly. When someone dies, out come the usual blandishments … as if their death is there to be used. I’m not prepared to do this with Andy. I just hope … 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. 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.”


Andy Rourke was born on January 17, 1964, in Manchester. Andy started playing the guitar when he was a kid and met Johnny Marr when he was just 11 years old. As teenagers, they were in a band together called Freak Party and recorded a demo in 1981. A year later in 1982, Johnny Marr and Morrissey formed the Smiths, and after a few bandmate changes and the group’s first gig, Andy Rourke joined Johnny, Morrissey, and drummer Mike Joyce. And the rest was indie rock history.

The Smiths were only together for five years, but in that short time, they built a legacy with their albums The Smiths (1984), Meat Is Murder (1985), The Queen Is Dead (1986), and Strangeways, Here We Come (1987). And Andy’s melodic basslines became known as the heartbeat of the Smiths’ songs. Cases in point: Andy’s bassline on The Night Has Opened My Eyes from the band’s debut album:

And as Johnny Marr mentioned, Andy’s bassline on The Queen Is Dead:

And Barbarians Begin At Home:

And Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now:

And on and on! I was introduced to the Smiths by my older cousins. They lived and breathed for the Smiths. The walls of one of my cousins’ bedrooms were completely covered with the Smiths posters from the swap meet and pictures of them she ripped from magazines. I don’t remember shit anymore, but one childhood memory I will forever hold on to is the one where my cousins let me melt their black eyeliner pencils with a BIC lighter as they got ready to go out while we all listened to the Smiths.

During the Smiths’ reign, Andy suffered from heroin addiction and was fired from the band once. After the Smiths broke up in 1987, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce sued Morrissey and Johnny Marr over royalties. Morrissey and Johnny were getting 40% each, while Andy and Mike were only getting 10% each. Andy and Mike argued that all four members of the Smiths were equal and each should get 25%. Because of his addiction, Andy was broke at the time and settled for £83,000 and 10% of future royalties. Mike Joyce continued to fight and won, winning £1 million in back-royalties and 25% of future royalties.

Not all love between Morrissey and Andy was lost because after the Smiths broke up, Andy played on several of Morrissey’s solo songs. Andy also played and recorded with Sinead O’Connor, the Pretenders, Badly Drawn Boy, and the Stone Roses. In 2007, he formed the bassist supergroup Freebase with Mani from the Stone Roses and Peter Hook from New Order. And in 2016, Andy, Dolores O’Riordan, and her musician boyfriend Olé Koretsky released an album as the band D.A.R.K. Andy wrote a touching tribute to Dolores when she died in 2018.

Here’s Andy Rourke giving his final onstage performance with Johnny Marr last year:

Rest in peace, Andy Rourke.

Pic: Kevin Cummins/Getty Image

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