Smithereens Frontman Pat DiNizio Dead At 62

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So saddened to hear this news yesterday, it took me back to the first time I ever heard The Smithereens. It was 1986, a year that researchers have concluded was the worst year for music in the Rock era, a truth suspected by many of us on the ground at the time. Amidst the miasma of tinny, synthesized music – compressed, overprocessed aural plastic – came this song “Blood And Roses”, and it knocked me off my sectional sofa the first time I heard it.

Here was a deep, rich Rock sound, powerful but precise, with a controlled intensity like a tightly coiled spring. It was nothing like other music of the time, but it didn’t really sound like the music from the classic Rock era either. It felt like a breakthrough, a new template for the traditional guitar-based 4-piece Rock band. A teenaged Kurt Cobain fell in love with the band and would be deeply influenced by them.

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In the meantime The Smithereens enjoyed some modest success, gaining some heavy rotation on MTV and releasing their biggest hit “A Girl Like You” in 1990. Pat DiNizio wrote or co-wrote all of the band’s songs and was its lead singer. The guy was blessed not only with a great sense of Rock songcraft but also with a set of terrific pipes, and for a brief, shining moment it looked like his band was headed for big heights.

But then fate intervened in the form of the Grunge revolution. Even though the Smithereens dealt in power, it was the wrong flavor of power for the early Nineties, and the band slowly fell out of view. They would maintain a cult-like following after that, and experienced a bit of a career revival in the Oughts, especially after their 2007 release of Meet The Smithereens!, a song-by-song cover of the Beatles’ debut album.

It was a great experiment that demonstrated how startlingly good those early Beatles song were, but it also showed where the Smithereens’ fine musical instincts were largely derived from. R.I.P. Pat DiNizio, and here’s hoping the Smithereens will always be remembered as a band that helped keep Rock alive in the barren musical landscape of the mid-1980s.

 
Photo: By Jonathunder (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
 

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