Television's Tom Verlaine Dies at 73

The influential musician has passed away "after a brief illness"

Photo: Steve Louie

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jan 29, 2023

Tom Verlaine, the legendary bandleader of innovative New York proto-punk band Television, has died. He was 73.

The news of Verlaine's death today was confirmed to the New York Times by the daughter of the musician's peer and former partner Patti Smith. Jesse Paris Smith told the publication that Verlaine passed away "after a brief illness."

Television's watershed 1977 debut album Marquee Moon is regularly hailed as one of the best albums of that decade, redefining that era of New York City punk rock. As critic Robert Palmer wrote in Rock & Roll: An Unruly History, "When the punk rebellion began taking shape in the mid-seventies, Television in particular carried on the [Velvet Underground's] legacy of street-real lyrics and harmonic clang-and-drone, with appropriate nods to John Coltrane's modal jazz and the Byrds' resonating raga-rock from lead guitarist Tom Verlaine" [via Variety].

In 1949, Verlaine was born Thomas Miller in New Jersey and raised in Wilmington, DE. He embarked to New York in 1968, where he adopted his stage name in homage to French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine. The singer-songwriter formed Television in 1973 alongside boarding school friend Richard Meyers (who performed as Richard Hell) and Richard Lloyd, proceeding to build a cult following in Manhattan's mythic CBGB club scene. Hell left the band in 1975, forming the Heartbreakers with Jerry Nolan and ex-New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders.

Television put out a 7-inch single in 1975 on manager Terry Ork's label. They then signed to Elektra and released Marquee Moon to both critical and commercial success, debuting on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The band broke up shortly after the release of their sophomore album Adventure in 1978, though they would eventually reunited in the '90s to record a self-titled LP.

Verlaine went on to have a fruitful solo career, as well as working with a number of high-profile collaborators. He formed supergroup the Million Dollar Bashers with members of Sonic Youth, Wilco and more, later contributing to the soundtrack of Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There. Verlaine also collaborated with the likes of David Bowie, Violent Femmes and Smith, contributing to Horses and Easter

Numerous musicians have paid tribute to Verlaine's legacy since the news of his death broke, including Jason Isbell, AC Newman and Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite. See their tweets below.

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