Influential Punk Guitarist Tom Verlaine Of Television Passes Away

30 January 2023 | 8:55 am | Mary Varvaris

Flea, Patti Smith, Michael Stipe and Billy Idol lead the tributes.

(Television via Facebook)

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Tom Verlaine, the frontman and guitarist of the beloved New York City punk group, Television, passed away at age 73.

His passing was announced by Jesse Paris Smith, the daughter of Patti Smith, who didn't specify a cause but said that he died "after a brief illness".

With Television, Verlaine played on the band's first two albums, Marquee Moon (1977) and Adventure (1978), both of which received unanimous critical acclaim and modest sales. The band initially formed in 1973, played numerous gigs at the iconic New York Venue, CBGB, and developed a devoted following. The band broke up in July 1978, Verlaine and drummer Billy Ficca pursued solo careers, and in 1992, Television reformed.

In 1992, Television released their eponymously titled and final studio album. As a solo artist, Verlaine worked with Patti Smith and the Smashing Pumpkins and was part of the supergroup Million Dollar Bashers, which included Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth fame, Nels Cline from Wilco, Bob Dylan's bassist Tony Garnier, guitarist Smokey Hormel, and keyboardist John Medeski.

Verlaine was highly influential to his fellow guitar players. The New York Times writer Robert Palmer wrote about Verlaine in 1987: "Tom Verlaine is the guitarist to mention these days if you’re a young rocker with some pretence to intelligence and originality."

Michael Stipe, the vocalist of R.E.M. wrote on Instagram, "I’ve lost a hero. Bless you Tom Verlaine and thank you for the songs, the lyrics, the voice! And later the laughs, the inspiration, the stories, and the rigorous belief that music and art can alter and change matter, lives, experience. You introduced me to a world that flipped my life upside down. I am forever grateful."

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Mike Scott from The Waterboys tweeted, "Tom Verlaine has passed over to the beyond that his guitar playing always hinted at. He was the best rock and roll guitarist of all time, and like Hendrix could dance from the spheres of the cosmos to garage rock. That takes a special greatness."

Flea, the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist shared, "listened 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."