Tom Verlaine, the influential frontman of the band Television which emerged from the New York punk rock underground in the late 1970s with seminal album Marquee Moon, has died at the age of 73, his family have said.
The singer and guitarist died in New York “after a brief illness,” Jesse Paris Smith, the daughter of Verlaine and punk-poet laureate Patti Smith, told The New York Times, without specifying a cause of death.
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“This is a time when all seemed possible,” Smith wrote in an Instagram post on Saturday, alongside an old photo of her with Verlaine.
“Farewell Tom, aloft the Omega.”
Born Thomas Miller, Verlaine adopted his last name from the French poet Paul Verlaine, whose lyricism he tried to infuse into his songwriting, while playing guitar in a style both ethereal and aggressive.
He went to high school with fellow punk icon Richard Hell, and together they founded Television in 1973 alongside guitarist Richard Lloyd. Its 1977 debut Marquee Moon is “one of the greatest albums of the punk era,” according to Rolling Stone magazine.
Almost 10 minutes long, the album’s eponymous single illustrated the richness of a musical movement that inspired many groups, from the Ramones to R.E.M., U2, Talking Heads, to Blondie.
All went to the same punk rock citadel, CBGB, a feverish club on New York’s Lower East Side where the best hours of punk rock were lived.
Though Marquee Moon received critical acclaim from the likes of Rolling Stone, NME and Pitchfork, Television was only a minor commercial success.
After two albums, the band dissolved and Verlaine released a dozen solos, while collaborating with many artists, such as Smith and David Bowie.
Tributes have poured in on social networks from fellow artists remembering Verlaine.
Went by the book stalls outside Strand yesterday thinking I’d see you as usual, have a smoke, talk about rare poetry finds for a couple of hours, downtown NYC racing by our slow meditations on music, writing – gonna miss you Tom. TV Rest In Peace.
— Thurston Moore (@nowjazznow) January 28, 2023
“Went by the book stalls outside Strand yesterday thinking I’d see you as usual, have a smoke, talk about rare poetry finds for a couple of hours,” tweeted Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. “Gonna miss you Tom. TV Rest In Peace.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea said he listened to Marquee Moon 1,000 times and “will listen 1,000 more”.
“Tom Verlaine is one of the greatest rock musicians ever. He (affected) the way John and I play immeasurably,” he tweeted, referring to guitarist John Frusciante. “Fly on Tom.”
“His role in our culture and straight up awesomeness on the electric guitar was completely legendary,” Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai tweeted.
“Name 10 minutes of music as good as Marquee Moon. You can’t. It’s perfect.”