Tom Verlaine, frontman and guitarist of US band Television, dies at 73

Tom Verlaine

New York band best known for Marquee Moon and whose singer-songwriter also collaborated with Patti Smith that disbanded in 1978.

Tom Verlaine, frontman, songwriter, and legendary guitarist for the New York City band Television, died at the age of 73. His death was announced by Jesse Paris Smith, the daughter of Patti Smith, who said that he died “after a brief illness”.

Verlaine, born Thomas Miller in Denville, New Jersey, began studying piano at a young age but switched to saxophone after hearing a Stan Getz record.

After hearing the Rolling Stones’ 1966 hit 19th Nervous Breakdown, he was inspired to pick up a guitar during his adolescence.

Early years of Singer and Songwriter of Tom Verlaine

In honor of the French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, he chose his stage name.

He and his high school friend, Richard Hell, who shared a love of music and poetry, moved to New York City separately and formed the band Neon Boys in 1972, with Verlaine on guitar and vocals, Hell on bass and vocals, and Billy Ficca on drums.

After a brief hiatus, the band reformed in March 1973 as Television, with Richard Lloyd joining as a second guitarist. Their first performance was in March 1974. Hell left the band in 1975, and the band released their first single with Fred Smith replacing Hell.

Verlaine, the band’s lead singer and songwriter, dated poet and musician Patti Smith when they were both part of the emerging New York punk scene, and they collaborated frequently over the years.

Television released two albums, Marquee Moon and Adventure, to widespread critical acclaim but limited commercial success. One of the defining releases of the punk era is Marquee Moon.

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The band disbanded in July 1978, but Verlaine pursued a solo career in the 1980s, living in England for a time.

Television reformed in 1992, releasing a self-titled third album and occasionally performing live.

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

Tom Verlaine’s incredible, otherworldly guitar playing was first heard on Patti Smith’s “Hey Joe” and “Break It Up,” as well as Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel,” he added. Fantastic, jazzblown, and inspired. Except by himself, he has never been surpassed or equaled.”

Tom VerlaineTom Verlaine
Tom Verlaine, frontman and guitarist of US band Television, dies at 73, image source: The garage

Susanna Hoffs, The Bangles’ founding member, wrote “Peace and love, Tom Verlaine,” followed by a broken heart emoji.

Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite tweeted, “Devastated by this news. Tom Verlaine was an absolute legend. His influence on our culture and sheer awesomeness on the electric guitar were legendary. Name a piece of music that lasts 10 minutes and is as good as Marquee Moon. You simply cannot. It’s ideal. Tom, rest in peace.”

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Corbin Reiff, a music writer and author, tweeted: “Tom Verlaine. The patron saint of the seemingly unstoppable lead guitarist. “Rest in peace, one-of-a-kind”.

“I never played guitar along with records, so I never learned all the speed licks everybody gravitates to when starting out,” Verlaine said in a 2005 Guitar Player interview.

“I know 19-year-old guitarists who can perform Danny Gatton solos note-for-note. They have no idea what notes they’re playing, but they play them flawlessly.”

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Tom Verlaine Songs, Albums

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