Formed in 1980 in New Jersey, The Smithereens first found success in the latter half of the 1980s. Considered a pioneering band within the power-pop genre, The Smithereens inspired a lot of notable rock artists of the 1980s and 1990s, including Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Fountains of Wayne, The Gin Blossoms, Fastball, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Superdrag. The band’s first album, Especially for You, was recorded for Enigma and included the charting singles “Blood and Roses,” “Strangers When We Meet,” “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” and “In a Lonely Place.” “Blood and Roses” would go on to be named one of the “Singles of the Year” by The Village Voice, while “Behind the Wall of Sleep” was titled as one of “The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000” by author Bruce Pollock in 2005.
More noteworthy singles continued for The Smithereens — then-comprised of vocalist/guitarist Pat DiNizio, bassist Mike Mesaros, guitarist Jim Babjak, and drummer Dennis Diken — with 1988’s Green Thoughts, which yielded the hits “Only a Memory,” “House We Used to Live in,” and “Drown in My Own Tears.” 1989’s 11 proved to be the biggest commercial album for The Smithereens, reaching #41 on the Billboard 200, and charting three more singles with “Blues Before and After,” “A Girl Like You” — as originally written for the movie Say Anything — and “Yesterday Girl.” More radio airplay came from songs on 1991’s Blow Up and 1994’s A Date with the Smithereens, although these would prove to be the quartet’s last major releases. The Smithereens remained active after leaving the majors, recording a new studio effort every few years and regularly touring.
Smithereens frontman Pat DiNizio also stayed active as a solo artist over the years, releasing his first solo album in 1997, Songs and Sounds; his last full-length was 2009’s Buddy Holly, as recorded for Koch Records. DiNizio had also written two books, 2003’s Removing the Horns and 2009’s Confessions of a Rock Star, in addition to trying his hand at acting. From November 2011 through June 2012, DiNizio performed a live adaptation of Confessions of a Rock Star as part of a residency at the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
In September, The Smithereens canceled several of its concerts after DiNizio had a bad fall at home. In response to rumors that he was in poor health, DiNizio had written on Facebook that “Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated! Trust me, I am not on my deathbed or anywhere near it.” This had not been DiNizio’s first fall-related injury as he had slipped on ice near his home in 2013, requiring surgery and a break from playing guitar. Late in the evening of December 12, the Facebook page of The Smithereens announced the passing of DiNizio, noting that he had been “looking forward to getting back on the road and seeing his many fans and friends.”
A cause of death has not yet been announced. Social media condolences on the loss of Pat DiNizio have already come in from a variety of artists, including legendary songwriter Diane Warren, R.E.M. guitarist Mike Mills, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench III, The Bongos’ Richard Barone, and producer Linus Of Hollywood.
Oh no Pat DiNizio has passed away. Loved him. We did an amazing song together yrs ago.
— Diane Warren (@Diane_Warren) December 13, 2017