Smithereens Frontman Pat DiNizio Dead at 62
Pat DiNizio, the singer-songwriter best known for his decades fronting the Smithereens, has passed away at the age of 62.
News of DiNizio's death comes courtesy of the band's Facebook page, where a Dec. 13 post reads, "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Pat DiNizio, lead singer and songwriter of the influential New Jersey rock band, The Smithereens - America's Band. 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."
As previously reported, the Smithereens were forced to cancel some tour dates earlier this year after DiNizio was injured in a fall at his home, although he assured fans he was headed for "a complete and healthy recovery." This most recent fall was just the latest he'd suffered in recent years; in 2015, a pair of spills led to such significant nerve damage that he suffered the temporary loss of his right arm, requiring surgery partly paid for through a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Born Oct. 12, 1955 in Scotch Plains, N.J., DiNizio formed the nucleus of what would become the best-known Smithereens lineup, joining up with three fellow local teenage musicians: guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros, and drummer Dennis Diken. That quartet would remain together for nearly a quarter of a century — a span that saw the Smithereens rise to prominence as one of the more acclaimed young rock acts on the college-radio dial.
The Smithereens flirted with breakout success in the late '80s, migrating to Capitol Records after a series of albums for Enigma and scoring their first Top 40 single with "A Girl Like You" in 1989. That brush with the mainstream proved short-lived, however: After 1991's Blow Up failed to build on that momentum, the band jumped to RCA for 1994's A Date with the Smithereens before leaving the major-label system entirely.
The group went on hiatus for nearly a decade after the turn of the century, at which point DiNizio briefly pursued a political career — launching an ultimately unsuccessful run for the New Jersey Senate as a Reform Party candidate — before continuing the solo recording career he'd begun with Songs and Sounds in 1997. His fourth solo LP, Buddy Holly, was released in 2009.
After regrouping without Mesaros in 2007, the Smithereens largely focused on touring, although they released a Christmas LP that year and honored the music of the Beatles and the Who with a trio of covers projects. Their most recent collection of original material, 11, was released in 2011.
"Fear is my constant companion," DiNizio told the Los Angeles Times in 1990 when asked to describe his songwriting motivation. "How many melodies are there left in the world? But I've forced myself to embrace that fear. I have no choice. I'm a professional songwriter and member of a band. But what could be better?"