Pat DiNizio, frontman, songwriter and guitarist with veteran alternative rockers The Smithereens, died Tuesday (Dec. 12) at the age of 62.
DiNizio had been recovering from unidentified “medical issues” sustained during a fall and, just days earlier, revealed in a Facebook message that he was looking forward to returning to the road.
The New Jersey artist’s surviving bandmates — Jimmy Babjak (guitar), Mike Mesaros (bass) and Dennis Diken (drums) — confirmed his death in a statement, though details have not been revealed. The late artist “had the magic touch” and a knack for channeling “the essence of joy and heartbreak into hook-laden three minute pop songs infused with a lifelong passion for rock & roll,” the trio recalled.
“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,” reads the post.
“Today we mourn the loss of our friend, brother and bandmate Pat DiNizio. Pat had the magic touch. He channeled the essence of joy and heartbreak into hook-laden three minute pop songs infused with a lifelong passion for rock & roll. Our journey with Pat was long, storied and a hell of a lot of fun. We grew up together. Little did we know that we wouldn’t grow old together. Goodbye Pat. Seems like yesterday.”
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DiNizio formed the band with Babjak, Diken, and Mesaros in 1980 and enjoyed international success with a string of nuggety numbers which also happened to sound great over the airwaves such as “Blood and Roses,” “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” “Only A Memory,” “A Girl Like You” and “Too Much Passion,” the latter two cracking the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. Five Smithereens titles impacted the Billboard 200, with a best of No. 41 for 1990’s Smithereens 11.
Outside of the power-pop band he helped create, the Scotch Plains, New Jersey native released a number of solo studio albums, tried his hand at politics (he made an unsuccessful run for the New Jersey seat of the U.S. senate in 2000) and launched a subscription platform — Patrons & Artists Together — in the early days of the digital revolution.
The Smithereens remained active in recent times, though tour dates were postponed when DiNizio was hurt in a “bad fall” at home in September. An upbeat DiNizio was confident of making a full recovery and wrote at the time, “we look forward to seeing you again in your town very soon.”