Tom Verlaine, the guitarist, songwriter, and frontman of ’70s art-rock greats Television, has died. The news was confirmed by Jesse Paris Smith, the daughter of Patti Smith, who said he died “after a brief illness.” Verlaine was 73.
Born Thomas Miller in Denville, New Jersey in 1949, Verlaine began playing music at an early age, starting with piano and switching to saxophone after taking an interest in the music of Stan Getz. He took up guitar after getting into the Rolling Stones, and in high school he was close with future punk-rock figurehead Richard Hell.
Hell and Verlaine moved to New York City, where Verlaine changed his last name in reference to the French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine. With Hell, Verlaine formed the short-lived proto-punk band Neon Boys, who broke up and reformed as Television.
Television brought on guitarist Richard Lloyd and started gigging around the city at CBGB and Max’s Kansas City. In 1975, Hell left the band and Fred Smith replaced him. (Verlaine also dated Patti Smith around this time.)
The band released two albums — their 1977 debut Marquee Moon and 1978’s Adventure. Television broke up in 1978, though they did reunite to record a self-titled album in 1992 and have performed together sporadically ever since.
In addition to his work with Television, Verlaine launched a solo career. He released 10 studio albums, including his 1979 self-titled debut and 2006’s Around. Over the last four decades, Verlaine collaborated with numerous artists, including playing guitar on Luna’s Penthouse album, Patti Smith (he played guitar on Smith’s Grammy-nominated “Glitter In Their Eyes” from her 2000 album Gung Ho; “Fireflies” from her 1996 album Gone Again; on her debut single “Hey Joe” and “Break It Up” from her debut album Horses).
Verlaine was also part of the supergroup Million Dollar Bashers, which featured Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley, Wilco’s Nels Cline, Bob Dylan bassist Tony Garnier, guitarist Smokey Hormel, and John Medeski.
In 2012, Verlaine teamed up with Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha on his second solo album, Look To The Sky.
This is a developing story…