×

Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens Dies at 62

Pat DiNizio, vocalist-guitarist-songwriter for the tough yet tuneful New Jersey rock band the Smithereens, died Tuesday. He was 62.

The group announced his passing on their web site. No cause of death was given, but the musician had been beset by health problems in recent years; in 2015 he was sidelined after losing the use of his right hand and arm following a pair of falls that incurred serious nerve damage.

The Smithereens, who had canceled three tour dates earlier this year after DiNizio injured his back and neck in another fall, had scheduled new tour dates beginning in January.

Founded in Carteret, NJ, the Smithereens were among the most widely admired power-pop units of their era. DiNizio was the group’s principal songwriter; he specialized in melodic yet tough tunes that won the band comparisons to precursors like the Who and contemporaries like England’s Rockpile.

Though never a major success, the quartet acquired a loyal following with their early albums for Enigma Records. Their brand of rock classicism could be heard in such fan favorites as “Blood and Roses,” “Strangers When We Meet,” “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” “In a Lonely Place,” “Only a Memory,” and “A Girl Like You.”

After a layoff in the early years of the millennium, the Smithereens regrouped, indulging their Anglophilia in albums of cover material: “Meet the Smithereens!” (a track-by-track remake of the Beatles’ first U.S. album), “B-Sides the Beatles” (covering the Fab Four’s single flip sides) and the self-explanatory “The Smithereens Play Tommy.”

“I love it,” DiNizio said of life with the Smithereens in a 1990 Los Angeles Times interviews. “It beats picking up garbage, like I used to do. We’re self-employed – beyond the vfact that we get to do what we love for living.”

DiNizio branched into solo work in 1997 with “Sounds and Songs.” He recorded five solo sets, the most recent of which was another backward-looking set of covers, “Pat DiNizio/Buddy Holly.”

DiNizio was born Oct. 12, 1955, in Scotch Plains, NJ, and lived all his life in his Garden State hometown. In 1975 he began playing with three classmates from nearby Cateret High School – guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros and drummer Dennis Diken. That lineup would remain in place for nearly 25 years.

Honing their chops at club shows that made them regional heroes, the Smithereens issued their debut album “Especially for You” on Enigma in 1986. The hard-rocking yet pop-savvy set included the breakout radio track “Blood and Roses,” and climbed to No. 51 on the U.S. charts. Its successors, “Green Thoughts” (No. 60, 1988) and “11” (No. 41, 1989), contained similarly styled material that heartily echoed the sounds of the ‘60s British Invasion.

Major label releases for Capitol (“Blow Up,” 1991) and BMG (“A Date with the Smithereens,” 1994) failed to crack the top half of the charts, and the group recorded only sporadically following 1999’s “God Save the Smithereens.”

Though none of DiNizio’s solo releases was a major hit, he remained a much-loved figure in the New York/New Jersey region, and was a compelling performer even when armed with an acoustic guitar.

In 2000, he branched into politics in an unsuccessful Reform Party campaign for a New Jersey seat in the U.S. Senate. The following year, he began a stint as the host of an XM Radio station devoted to unsigned talent. He appeared on ESPN’s “7th Inning Stretch,” a reality show that followed his attempt to join a minor league New Jersey baseball team, in 2006.

Information about DiNizio’s survivors was not immediately available.

 

 

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group announced it has entered a partnership with the music streaming and discovery service Audiomack, marking the platform’s first licensing deal with a major label. According to the announcement, the two companies will work together on content concepts and explore ways to break emerging artists, connecting music fans with rising talent before they [...]

  • Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on

    Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on ‘Brilliant’ Album and Campaign

    Two days after Taylor Swift fired off the latest salvo in her battle with Scooter Braun, the manager congratulated the singer on the campaign around her “brilliant” new album, “Lover,” which arrived last night. The message came after Swift said she will be re-recording songs from her first six albums, which are now owned by [...]

  • Review: Taylor Swift Finds Giddiness, Amid

    Album Review: Taylor Swift's 'Lover'

    Sitting in a hot tub on “Saturday Night Live,” Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch stole the sobriquet “love-ah” from the lexicon of acceptable terms of endearment — and, by golly, Taylor Swift is reaching into that oily water and stealing it back. The word doesn’t sound unctuous on her lips as she repeats it in [...]

  • Travis ScottWireless Festival, Finsbury Park, London,

    Travis Scott Surprises Fans With Netflix Documentary Reveal, Pop-Up in Houston

    Travis Scott just revealed his new Netflix documentary in the most organic way possible: a social media post to his 18.5 million followers on Instagram. The photo consisted of him holding a series of VHS tapes, which turns out to be the trailer for his forthcoming documentary on Netflix titled “Look Mom I Can Fly.” [...]

  • Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing

    Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing From Usher, Adam Lambert

    A Beverly Hills real estate agent has been arrested on charges of stealing from the homes of celebrities, including Usher, Adam Lambert and “Real Housewives” star Dorit Kemsley. Jason Emil Yaselli, 32, is accused of encouraging an accomplice, Benjamin Ackerman, to enter homes during open houses in order to steal from them. Ackerman allegedly sold [...]

  • Taylor Swift Debuts 'Lover' Video, Sings

    Taylor Swift Debuts 'Lover' Video, Sings 'Archer' During YouTube Livestream (Watch)

    Taylor Swift went live on YouTube today to talk about the inspiration behind her new album “Lover,” dropping tonight. Those who tuned into the live event on Swift’s YouTube channel were virtual attendees of the “Lover’s Lounge,” which included an acoustic performance of her already released single “The Archer,” a Q&A sesh and a behind-the-scenes [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content