Tributes have flooded in for Tom Verlaine, the frontman of rock band Television, who died at the age of 73 on Saturday night (January 28). The band rose to fame in the 1970s New York punk scene as they scored three UK Top 40 hit singles and were acclaimed for their albums Marquee Moon and Adventure.
Verlaine’s death was announced by Jesse Paris Smith, the daughter of long-time associate and collaborator Patti Smith. She however did not specify a cause, saying that he died “after a brief illness.”
Verlaine, a guitarist, was regarded as one of the most competent musicians to emerge from the now-defunct CBGBs bar in New York’s Bowery, with Blondie, The Ramones, and Talking Heads.
Despite their notoriety as a result of the punk movement, their music was more complicated than that of their contemporaries, with Verlaine and fellow guitarist Richard Lloyd swapping lengthy solos and intricate jazz-influenced riffs.
Verlaine was born in New Jersey as Thomas Miller, but chose his stage name in honour of the French symbolist author Paul Verlaine. The band had more success in Britain than in the US, splitting in 1978. After the split, Verlained released a string of solo albums, with his song ‘Kingdom Come’.
Among those paying tribute to him was Mike Scott of the Waterboys, who 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 special greatness.”
Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins said: “A true original. No one played guitar like Tom Verlaine before or since. Sat crossed legged on the floor on his side of the stage in Roskilde as he played in Patti Smith’s band and that was as close to perfection as you can get. A sad sad day. Rest in Peace Tom.”