Smithereens Frontman Pat DiNizio Dead At 62: Inside The Strange Story Of ‘A Girl Like You’

A song for the ‘Say Anything’ soundtrack nearly gave the singer the movie superstardom he deserved.

Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens has died
Velvel / AP Images

A song for the ‘Say Anything’ soundtrack nearly gave the singer the movie superstardom he deserved.

Pat DiNizio, the lead singer and guitarist of the veteran rock band The Smithereens, has died. DiNizio passed away at age 62 just two months after sustaining injuries in a fall. Pat DiNizio’s bandmates — Jimmy Babjak, Mike Mesaros, and Dennis Diken — confirmed his death in a statement on The Smithereens Facebook page, saying of the late singer and guitarist: “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.”

Pat DiNizio formed The Smithereens with Babjak, Diken, and Mesaros in 1980 and the band found success with the songs “Blood and Roses,” “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” and “Only A Memory.” Still, they remained one of the most underrated power pop/college rock bands of the 1980s and early 90s.

But it was the 1989 song “A Girl Like You” that could have been a game changer for the New Jersey-based band. While the song did go on to become one of The Smithereens’ biggest hits, it could have led the band to superstardom.

According to notes written by Pat DiNizio on The Smithereens official website, “A Girl Like You” was initially “a work for hire” written for the film Say Anything. The film, which starred Jon Cusack and Ione Skye, marked the directorial debut of Cameron Crowe and it has been deemed one of the greatest modern romance movies. And it nearly included DiNizio’s “A Girl Like You” in that iconic boombox scene.

“Writer/director Cameron Crowe gave me a copy of the screenplay and a VHS work print of the ‘film-in-progress’ for me to work with,” DiNizio revealed.

“I interpreted the best bits of dialogue between the main characters and told the story of the movie lyrically, but I was careful to write a set of lyrics that stood on their own, that told a story independent of the film as well.”

Unfortunately, the collaboration wasn’t meant to be. In an interview with blogger Clifford Meth, Pat DiNizio revealed that the proposed soundtrack song was pulled after he had a minor argument with the film’s producer. Pat DiNizio’s instincts told him the song would still be a hit.

“The only time that I had the feeling I had a hit was when I wrote ‘Girl Like You,’ which was written for Cameron Crowe for his film Say Anything,” the Smithereens singer said.

“And after a minor argument with the producer James L. Brooks, we decided to take the song back and save it for ourselves. And that being said, obviously I had a feeling at the time that it was a hit or we would have given it to them. We decided to save it for ourselves because it might have been released on a soundtrack album and got lost and then it would have had no meaning later on.”

In a separate interview with the Chicago Tribune, DiNizio explained that he butted heads with Brooks over the lyrics to the song.

“I based [‘A Girl Like You’] on bits of dialogue in the screenplay and video that they gave me months and months before the film was released,” Pat said.

“At a certain point, the producer wanted me to change the lyrics and I didn`t want to, so the band decided not to give them the song. They used an old Peter Gabriel song, `In Your Eyes,` instead.”

In one of the most famous scenes in Say Anything, Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler serenades Skye’s Diane Court outside of her bedroom window by holding a boombox over his head as “In Your Eyes” blares from the speaker.

“A Girl Like You” went on to appear on the Smithereens third studio album, 11, while Gabriel’s recycled 1986 song “In Your Eyes’ became an unlikely teenage anthem. Peter Gabriel credited Say Anything with giving his song a second life, telling Rolling Stone the famous boombox scene “is one of the modern day Romeo and Juliet balcony clichés.”

“I’ve talked to John Cusack about that,” Gabriel told Rolling Stone. ” We’re sort of trapped together in a minuscule moment of contemporary culture. ”

While it’s hard to imagine anything other than “In Your Eyes” in that scene now, in an interview with Vanity Fair, Cameron Crowe expressed regret over not using the Smithereens song for the Say Anything soundtrack.

“Of the other songs written for one of our movies, and painfully unused, the main one is probably the Smithereens’ ‘A Girl Like You,’ which was written for Say Anything. Great song, but it explained the plot too much,” Crowe revealed.

Pat DiNizio was later given a minor role in Crowe’s 1992 romantic comedy Singles—a bit part in a coffeehouse scene (DiNizio was credited as “Sid”) served as a consolation prize—but Smithereens fans have long wondered what might have been had “A Girl Like You” claimed the high-profile spot on the Say Anything soundtrack.