The Smiths bassist Andy Rourke has died aged 59

Andy Rourke onstage
Andy Rourke onstage with The Smiths at Hammersmith Palais, London, June 15, 1984 (Image credit: DPA Picture Alliance / Alamy Stock Photo)

Andy Rourke, bassist with iconic indie group The Smiths, has died aged 59. 

The news was broken by the band's guitarist, Johnny Marr, via a statement on his social media pages.

"It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Andy Rourke after a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer," wrote Marr. "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."

The Smiths produced four albums in their time as a group: The Smiths (1984), Meat Is Murder (1985), The Queen Is Dead (1986) and Strangeways, Here We Come (1987). As well as these, Rourke played on every standalone single they released between 1983 and their split in 1987.

After the group disbanded, Rourke went on to play with with a long list of musicians, from Morrissey and Marr (separately) to Sinead O’Connor, Peter Hook, Ian Brown Dolores O’Riordan and beyond.

Those who worked with him have taken to social media to pay tribute to "a total one-off", with Travis frontman Fran Healy calling him "such a lovely gentle soul". 

"Deeply saddened by the death of Andy Rourke, bassist in the greatest rock'n'roll band ever," wrote journalist Simon Price. "Overshadowed by the personality of Morrissey and the genius of Marr, but he could really play (as Barbarism Begins At Home shows). Lovely man, as well."

“I was always fascinated with musical instruments in general, as far back as I can remember,” Rourke told Bass Player Magazine in 2016. “Every Christmas, and every time my birthday came round in January, I’d ask for a trumpet or a saxophone – obviously plastic ones. At Christmas when I was eight, I asked for a guitar, and my parents bought me a plastic one. I was getting tired of plastic instruments by this point, so I stamped my foot and demanded a real guitar, and in January they bought me a real one. My dad’s secretary’s daughter gave me some very basic guitar lessons and it went from there. I learned how to play along to the radio and my parents’ records and stuff like that. I was obsessed.

“Bass came along when I joined a band called the White Dice, which is a terrible name, with Johnny Marr. The bass player was Kevin Kennedy, later known as Curly Watts [a character in Coronation Street], and the only song he could play was Don’t Believe A Word by Thin Lizzy. After 20 rehearsals that became a little bit tiresome, so Johnny suggested that I try the bass. I was a bit offended at first, because I thought I was being demoted! But I tried it and I liked it, because it changed my whole way of thinking. Before that, I’d never consciously listened to a bass-line in any song, I’d just listened to songs as a whole. After that, I became obsessed with the bass.”

Asked about his favourite bass players, Rourke replied: "John Entwistle was a big influence, and McCartney, obviously. One of my unsung heroes is Bill Wyman: no-one ever mentions his bass-lines, but I think they were fantastic, and really funky as well."

"I prefer not to overthink the bass-lines. I like to just get stuck in there and go with my instincts. If I fuck up I’ll do another take, but otherwise I’m not that picky."

Briony Edwards

Briony is the Editor in Chief of Louder and is in charge of sorting out who and what you see covered on the site. She started working with Metal Hammer, Classic Rock and Prog magazines back in 2015 and has been writing about music and entertainment in many guises since 2009. She is a big fan of cats, Husker Du and pizza.