The news that Rourke had passed away aged 59 was announced earlier today (May 19). He died after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.
Marr broke the news on Twitter, releasing a written statement shortly afterwards.
“Andy and I met as schoolboys in 1975,” he wrote. “We were best friends, going everywhere together. When we were 15 I moved into his house with him and his three brothers and I soon came to realise that my mate was one of those rare people that absolutely no one doesn’t like.”
The statement continued: “Andy and I spent all our time studying music, having fun, and working on becoming the best musicians we could possibly be. Back then Andy was a guitar player and a good one at that, but it was when he picked up the bass that he would find his true calling and his singular talent would flourish.
“Throughout our teens we played in various bands around South Manchester before making our reputations with The Smiths from 1982 to 1987, and it was on those Smiths records that Andy reinvented what it is to be a bass guitar player.”
Known for his melodic playing style, Rourke played on Smiths classics including This Charming Man and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, as well as on solo songs for frontman Morrissey after the group disbanded.
Morrissey released a statement via his website saying that Rourke "will never die as long as his music is heard".
"Sometimes one of the most radical things you can do is to speak clearly," Morrissey posted. "When someone dies, out come the usual blandishments… as if their death is there to be used. I'm not prepared to do this with Andy. I just hope, wherever Andy has gone, that he's OK. He will never die as long as his music is heard.
"He didn't ever know his own power, and nothing that he played had been played by someone else. His distinction was so terrific and unconventional and he proved it could be done. He was also very, very funny and very happy, and post-Smiths, he kept a steady identity - never any manufactured moves. I suppose, at the end of it all, we hope to feel that we were valued. Andy need not worry about that."
Meanwhile, Johnny Marr praised Rourke's “dazzling” basslines.
“I was present at every one of Andy’s bass takes on every Smiths session,” the guitarist wrote. “Sometimes I was there as the producer and sometimes just as his proud mate and cheerleader. Watching him play those dazzling baselines was an absolute privilege and genuinely something to behold. But one time which always comes to mind was when I sat next to him at the mixing desk watching him play his bass on the song The Queen Is Dead. It was so impressive that I said to myself ‘I’ll never forget this moment.’”
Marr concluded: “We maintained our friendship over the years, no matter where we were or what was happening and it is a matter of personal pride as well as sadness that the last time Andy played on stage was with me and my band at Madison Square Garden in September 2022. It was a special moment that we shared with my family and his wife and soul mate Francesca.
“Andy will always be remembered, as a kind and beautiful soul by everyone who knew him, and as a supremely gifted musician by people who love music. Well done Andy. We’ll miss you brother.”
Rourke also played in Freebass with fellow Mancunian bass guitarists, New Order’s Peter Hook and the Stone Roses’ Mani, worked with with Sinéad O’Connor, the Pretenders and Ian Brown and was in the group DARK with the Cranberries vocalist Dolores O’Riordan.
Read a selection of tributes to Rourke below.
It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Andy Rourke after a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer.— Johnny Marr (@Johnny_Marr) May 19, 2023
Andy will be remembered as a kind and beautiful soul by those who knew him and as a supremely gifted musician by music fans.
We request privacy at this sad time pic.twitter.com/KNehQxXoFz
Not only the most talented bass player I've ever had the privilege to play with but the sweetest, funniest lad I've ever met. Andy's left the building, but his musical legacy is perpetual. I miss you so much already. Forever in my heart mate.— Mike Joyce (@mikejoycedrums) May 19, 2023
RIP Andy, one of the nicest people, you’ll be missed. ????— Paul Arthurs. (@BoneheadsPage) May 19, 2023
Very sorry to hear that Smiths bassist Andy Rourke has passed away. I have great memories of him playing with Johnny Marr and myself on the Red Wedge tour. He was a lovely guy and an amazing bass player. My condolences to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/r9moJTxgiG— Billy Bragg (@billybragg) May 19, 2023
Rest in Peace Andy. A true inspiration to me and the reason I moved to Manchester to be a musician. One of the best bass players to come out of Manchester If it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t be in New Order today. My thoughts go to his friends and family Big Love ????. TC pic.twitter.com/epTNNDyxJo— Tom Chapman (@tommychap01) May 19, 2023
Godspeed Andy Rourke, and thank you for the music. pic.twitter.com/MToC9zjHUp— Rough Trade Records (@RoughTradeRecs) May 19, 2023
We are very sad to hear of the passing of Andy Rourke, the much revered bassist of The Smiths.— BBC Radio 6 Music (@BBC6Music) May 19, 2023
Johnny Marr confirmed "with deep sadness" that Rourke had died.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
????: Getty Images pic.twitter.com/6fUKcnu3hh
Such sad sad news about Andy Rourke - He was an inspirational musician with a style that made so many of us pick up a bass guitar; and the driving force for Manchester Versus Cancer. Our thoughts are with everyone who knew him. Travel well x pic.twitter.com/6hrrfl9bhx— Tim Burgess (@Tim_Burgess) May 19, 2023
Aw man. RIP Andy Rourke. A total one-off - a rare bassist whose sound you could recognise straight away. I remember so clearly playing that Barbarism break over and over, trying to learn the riff, and marvelling at this steely funk driving the track along. (pic - K Cummins) pic.twitter.com/c3iBdsstpC— Mat Osman (@matosman) May 19, 2023
Very sad news about Andy Rourke. I met Andy with Mike Joyce in LA in the 80s. Such lovely guys, made time to chat to a kid from Newton-le-Willows, Heroes! R.I.P.— Rick Astley (@rickastley) May 19, 2023
Love to his family and friends ?? #AndyRourke pic.twitter.com/8fxAyyQ4E4
Very sad to hear of the death of Andy Rourke. He was a huge inspiration. Nobody else played like him. Those melodies that wove in and out of the singing, guitar and drums brought me so much joy, like satisfying puzzles communicating the complexity of life.— Alex Kapranos (@alkapranos) May 19, 2023
RIP Andy Rourke. Was such a huge Smiths fan. And this bassline was *chefs kiss*.— Complete Control PR (@pollybirkbeck) May 19, 2023
The smiths - barbarism begins at home - TheTube https://t.co/92XVKQzmNh
Our thoughts are with the family, friends and fans of The Smiths bassist Andy Rourke, who has died aged 59.— Official Charts (@officialcharts) May 19, 2023
Johnny Marr says: "Andy will be remembered as a kind and beautiful soul by those who knew him and as a supremely gifted musician by music fans."
Rest in peace, Andy. pic.twitter.com/KODOTjdJr2
RiP ANDY ROURKE— Ian Brown (@ianbrown) May 19, 2023
I first met Andy aged 17 @simonWolstencr1 party.We remained pals. One of the highlights of my music life was Andy playing on my The World is Yours album and accompanying me onstage on a UK tour and my first show in MOSCOW. Belly laughs all the way. RiP Brother X
PHOTOS: Roy Rochlin/Stringer/Getty, Paul Slattery, Riaz Gomez