Howard Marks dead at 70

Howard Marks
(Image credit: Getty)

Howard Marks has died aged 70.

The former drug smuggler turned author and campaigner from South Wales announced in January last year that he had been diagnosed with inoperable bowel cancer.

A statement reads that he died in the early hours of April 10, “Peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his four loving children.”

It adds (via BBC): “He fought the illness with grace and humour.

“His death was 21 years to the day since his release from prison in the United States, his second bout of imprisonment for cannabis smuggling since his miraculous acquittal at the Old Bailey in 1980.

“One of his last acts was to set up the Mr Nice foundation, to ensure the causes dear to him continue to receive his support.”

Marks began smuggling drugs in the 1970s after graduating from Oxford University with a degree in physics. It’s estimated that at the height of his criminal career, Marks controlled 10% of the world’s cannabis trade.

But in 1988 he was extradited from Spain to Florida by a US Drug Enforcement Agency-led operation and sentenced to 25 years in prison after being caught smuggling cannabis. He was released in 1995 for good behaviour.

Marks recalled his rock’n’roll exploits in his best-selling autobiography, Mr Nice in 1996. Ten years later he wrote a sequel Senor Nice – Straight Life from Wales to South America, before venturing into crime fiction with his book Sympathy For The Devil in 2011. He also performed one-man shows at Glastonbury and collaborated on songs with Super Furry Animals.

TeamRock’s Content Director Scott Rowley says: “Howard came to the Classic Rock awards once – the first one, I think, and maybe one or two afterwards. He was as funny and charming as everyone says.

“At the time there was a slight concern that we could be seen to be ‘glorifying a drug smuggler’ – like rock’n’roll never glorified drugs.

“Keith Allen once said Howard should’ve been given an OBE ‘for keeping Britain stoned in the 70s and 80s.’ He’s right: we should probably have given him an Outstanding Achievement award.”

Marks is survived by his wife and four children.

Howard Marks dead at 70

Former TeamRock news desk member Christina joined our team in late 2015, and although her time working on online rock news was fairly brief, she made a huge impact by contributing close to 1500 stories. Christina also interviewed artists including Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and worked at the Download festival. In late 2016, Christina left rock journalism to pursue a career in current affairs. In 2021, she was named Local Weekly Feature Writer of the Year at the Scottish Press Awards.