Television’s Tom Verlaine Dies at 73

Tom Verlaine, singer, songwriter, and guitarist of the iconic rock band Television died on Jan. 28 in New York City. He was 73.

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Verlaine’s death was revealed by Jesse Paris Smith, daughter of his longtime collaborator and friend artist Patti Smith. A cause of death was not revealed, but Verlaine reportedly died following a “brief illness.”

“Dearest Tom, the love is immense and forever,” wrote Jesse Smith. “My heart is too intensely full to share everything now, and finding the words is too deep of a struggle. The feeling inside is so heavy, though your spirit is light and lifted, it is everywhere, completely and truly free.”

Smith continued, “I love you always and forever, and will always remember and hold close the touch of your hand, hands of a beautiful creator and of a love more warm, tender, delicate, and true that one can ever dream. There has never been another like you and there never will be. What a blessing and gift I was given to share my time on earth with you. I will be grateful to the end of my life, and we will see you again beyond that, meeting you there, wherever you’ve gone. Thank you for leading the way.”

Sharing an older photograph of herself with Verlaine in the mid-1970s when the two were briefly a couple during their earlier days at CBGB in New York City, Patti Smith added “This is a time when all seemed possible. Farewell Tom, aloft the Omega.”

A fixture in the late ’70s scene at CBGB in New York City, Verlaine and Television played along with Patti Smith Group, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, The Dead Boys, The Cramps, The Dictators, and the remaining batch of musical misfits that formed the melting pot of music around the famed venue.

Born Thomas Miller on Dec. 13, 1949, Tom pulled his stage surname from 19th century poet Paul Verlaine and wrote lyrics that played out like more ethereal prose than punk. Along with his piercing guitar, and lyrics as the key songwriter in Television, the band’s 1977 debut Marquee Moon encapsulated the experimental and multi-dimensional movement within the New York City music scene during the era. Though Television parted ways following their second album, Adventure, in 1978, the band later regrouped in 1992 to release their self-titled third and final album together.

Following Television, Verlaine continued on with his solo career, releasing his eponymous debut in 1979 and a number of albums throughout the ’80s, 1990s, and into the 2000s.

In 1994, Verlaine composed the music for the crime film Love and a .45, and along with appearing on a number of Smith’s albums—including Gone Again, Gung Ho, Twelve, and her 2012 release Banga—he also collaborated with David Bowie, Violent Femmes, Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, and a number of other artists over the years. By the late ’90s, Verlaine was also beginning to work with Jeff Buckley on a project before his death in 1997.

Verlaine also started the supergroup the Million Dollar Bashers with Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and and Steve Shelley, along with Bob Dylan bassist Tony Garnier, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, keyboardist John Medeski, and guitarist Smokey Hormel. The band contributed to the soundtrack of the 2007 Bob Dylan biopic, I’m Not There.

Verlaine released his final two solo albums, Songs and Other Things and Around, in 2006.

Photo by Jordi Vidal/Redferns via Getty Images

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