Television Founder + Frontman Tom Verlaine Dead at 73, Rockers Mourn Post-Punk Legend
Guitarist/vocalist Tom Verlaine – who co-founded and fronted post-punk progenitors Television – has died at 73, the band’s official Twitter page confirmed yesterday afternoon (Jan. 28). Since then, numerous rockers have paid tribute to the legendary musician on social media.
Born Thomas Miller in Denville, N.J. in 1949, Verlaine grew up listening to artists such as The Rolling Stones and Miles Davis amidst maintaining an interest in creative writing. (In fact, his professional name was an homage to French poet Paul Verlaine.) Eventually, he met future bassist Richard Hell at school, and by 1973, the two would move to New York City and start Television with drummer Billy Ficca and guitarist Richard Lloyd.
Before long, however, Hell was replaced by former Blondie bassist Fred Smith; together, the reformed quartet quickly became one of the most influential and revered parts of the mid-70s CBGB scene alongside cultural figures such as Verlaine’s then-girlfriend, Patti Smith.
1977’s critically and commercially lucrative debut LP, Marquee Moon, cemented their artistic impact and daringness. Essentially, it combined and/or innovated relatively complex blends of punk, garage rock, new wave, jazz and other styles with equally sophisticated lyricism. Over the subsequent decades, it’s appeared on numerous prestigious lists of the greatest albums of all time.
Although not as successful, 1978’s Adventure was a respectable and enjoyable follow-up. Unfortunately, various personal and professional issues led to Television breaking up shortly after Adventure came out. It would be another 14 years before they’d reunited for 1992’s self-titled third studio album (which received mostly positive reviews). They continued to play gigs here and there, too, with Lloyd “amicably severing all ties” with Television in June 2007. He was replaced by Jimmy Rip (Jerry Lee Lewis, Paul Collins & the Beat).
During Television’s hiatus, Verlaine embarked on a prosperous solo career that began with 1979’s Tom Verlaine. Between 1981 and 2006, he put out several more original albums, and he also collaborated with many noteworthy creators (including Luna, Patti Smith, Smashing Pumpkins’ guitarist James Iha). He also formed Million Dollar Bashers, a supergroup that featured bassist Tony Garnier (Bob Dylan), Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and Sonic Youth members Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley.
While no precise cause of death has been given, The New York Times confirmed that Jesse Paris Smith – daughter of Patti Smith – stated that it occurred “after a brief illness.”
Naturally, Patti Smith was among the first to share heartfelt reactions to the news. Last night (Jan. 28), she posted an old picture of herself with Verlaine, captioning: “This is a time when all seemed possible. Farewell Tom, aloft the Omega.” This morning (Jan. 29), she posted a photo of a flower and a handwritten note, commenting, “This is morning thinking about Tom. Grief is not an affliction, but a privilege.”
The first person to respond to it was RHCP’s Flea, who wrote: “[T]hat’s the most beautiful thing to hear patti. Love you so much.” He also posted his own tribute on Twitter: “[L]istened to Marquee Moon 1000 times. And I mean LISTENED, sitting still, lights down low taking it all in. awe and wonder every time. Will listen 1000 more. Tom Verlaine is one of the greatest rock musicians ever. He effected the way John and I play immeasurably. Fly on Tom.”
Many other musicians have since uploaded endearing remembrances, too. For instance, Billy Idol tweeted: “Sad 2 hear of @TELE_VISION_TV #tomverlaine passing today. He made incredible music that greatly influenced the US & UK punk rock scene in the ‘70’s RIP.” Similarly, The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs remarked, “Peace and love, Tom Verlaine,” whereas “She Blinded Me with Science” mastermind Thomas Dolby lamented: “Another of my heroes gone, away to the great Marquee Moon in the sky.”
You can view more reactions below, as well as check out some of Verlaine’s work. Of course, Loudwire sends our condolences to Verlaine’s friends, family and fans.