Pat DiNizio, The Smithereens’ lead singer and songwriter with ‘the magic touch,’ 1955-2017

Pat DiNizio, the lead singer and chief songwriter for The Smithereens, the New Jersey-bred college-rock mainstays who recorded “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” “Only a Memory” and “Blood and Roses,” has died, the band announced tonight on its official website. He was 62.

The cause of DiNizio’s death was not disclosed, though the band in October had rescheduled a series of concerts into 2018, saying the frontman “was recuperating from injuries sustained in a fall.” DiNizio also had suffered nerve damage in his right arm in recent years that left him unable to play guitar.

Just this past Saturday, DiNizio posted an update on his recovery, writing, “I learned a long time ago that life is a series of constant adjustments and with that in mind, we are doing our very best to deal with current medical issues to get me in shape for our upcoming gigs… rest assured I am receiving the best medical care and attention possible to repair the damage done to my neck and back in my recent falls.”

In announcing his death tonight, the band’s website notes, “Pat was looking forward to getting back on the road and seeing his many fans and friends. Please keep Pat in your thoughts and prayers.”

Additionally, original bandmates Jim Babjack, Dennis Diken and Mike Mesaros — the latter of whom recently had started playing with The Smithereens again — offered their own statement:

Today we mourn the loss of our friend, brother and bandmate Pat DiNizio. Pat had the magic touch. He channeled the essence of joy and heartbreak into hook-laden three minute pop songs infused with a lifelong passion for rock & roll. Our journey with Pat was long, storied and a hell of a lot of fun. We grew up together. Little did we know that we wouldn’t grow old together. Goodbye Pat. Seems like yesterday.

Jimmy, Mike, Dennis

The Smithereens formed in 1980, and began writing songs steeped in British Invasion and power-pop flavors. They made their debut that year with the Girls About Town EP, and would follow that up in 1983 with Beauty and Sadness, another EP. By 1986, they’d signed to Enigma and released their debut full-length, Especially for You, which featured college radio classics such as “Blood and Roses,” “Strangers When We Meet” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep.”

The band followed that up in 1988 with Green Thoughts, with standout tracks “Only a Memory,” “House We Used to Live In” and “Drown in My Own Tears.”  The band would flirt with major chart success with the single “A Girl Like You,” off 1989’s 11. Another album, 1991’s Blow Up, brought the band into the Top 40 again with “Too Much Passion.”

The Smithereens would continue making records throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, including collections of Beatles and Who songs. Severo Jornacion took over as bassist in 2005 after Mesaros left the band, but Mesaros had begun playing occasionally with The Smithereens again this year, trading off with Jornacion. The band had been working on a new album.

Below, a selection of some of The Smithereens’ best songs in honor of DiNizio’s passing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 Comments

  • I remember getting free tickets to see some band at a bar in Toronto, the same night that we saw REM and The Feelies. We ran six blocks after the concert was done and saw one of the best live bavds ever. Have loved them ever since that night, even though Pat couldn’t play guitar because he had cut his hand. What a show, what a band, and what a guy. So sad to hear about this.

     
  • Aaron Wright

    Aw hell.

     
  • Damn it.

     
  • Sandy

    My heart is truly broken. Thanks for the memories Pat.

     
  • Well god dammit. I loved Pat and his band’s music so much. Only saw them a few times but Esp for You and Green Thoughts are two classics for the ages. Had no idea he was ailing; this tempers my joy at hearing Roy was defeated in Alabama, where I spun their disks a ton on WEGL as a DJ at Auburn. What shitty news; we will miss you Pat!

     
  • Andy in Austin

    RIP Pat. I met him at SXSW about 15 years ago – he was genuinely humble and friendly. He talked to everyone about music and how much he enjoyed playing. Sorry to hear about his passing.

     
  • pogopop77

    DiNizio wrote so many timeless songs. If there’s a jukebox in heaven, there’s Smithereens songs on it.

     
  • Scott R Stalcup

    Thoughts going out to the band, esp. Jim Babjak. Wasn’t that long ago his wife Betty died. This sucks. They were next on the “Bands I can go see now that I have a decent job” list.

     
  • Nortley

    Shit. Just shit!

     
  • shane calhoon

    I’m glad I got to see them this past february. The 3 of Them (Thrilla didn’t sit at signing table) were very talkative, only Pat wasn’t able to sign anything. He still had his voice and it sounded awesome.

     
  • RIP Pat and thank you for the great music. Saw them several times and all were excellent shows. The guys always gave it their all. Was really interested to hear they were working on a new album as 2011 was a great release. If you haven’t had the chance, Pat’s first solo album is well worth the listen.

     
 

 

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