Mark E Smith, frontman of Manchester band the Fall, dies aged 60

Famously prolific musician who led various incarnations of the Manchester post-punk band the Fall, has died at the age of 60

Mark E Smith: “If it’s me and yer granny on bongos, it’s The Fall.”
Mark E Smith: “If it’s me and yer granny on bongos, it’s The Fall.”

Mark E Smith, the frontman of Manchester post-punk band the Fall, has died at the age of 60.

Smith formed the Fall in 1976 in Prestwich and was the only constant member of the band. He was known for his tempestuous relationship with his bandmates, and frequently fired them – there have been 66 different members over the years, with a third of them lasting less than a year. Smith famously once said: “If it’s me and yer granny on bongos, it’s The Fall.”

He was a famously prolific musician. Last year the Fall released their 32nd studio album, New Facts Emerge, and had been fitfully touring in recent months when Smith’s health would allow. The band played London’s 100 Club in July, while Smith performed from a wheelchair in Wakefield in October.

In August, the band cancelled shows in New York and Louisville, Kentucky, after Smith was hospitalised for issues relating to his throat, mouth and respiratory system. At the time the Fall’s manager, Pamela Vander, issued a statement saying: “Unfortunately, it would be a gamble on his health to fly anywhere over the next couple of months.” It would have been the Fall’s first US dates in a decade. In late December further US dates were cancelled, with Vander citing “a full year of bad health” as the reason.

Among the tributes paid to Smith were from writer and Haçienda DJ Dave Haslam, who said: “The death of Mark E Smith is news I’d been dreading. One of my heroes, and a man I was proud to call a friend.”

Tim Burgess, of fellow Manchester band the Charlatans, said Smith was “a true uncompromising musical maverick. A genius, a curmudgeon and someone whose company it was an honour to share.” Mancunian presenter Terry Christian called him “a colossus - the rest just chancers and careerists in comparison.”

Comedian Vic Reeves wrote on Twitter: “My good friend and my hero. You’ll be so terribly missed by me and millions [of] others. Your words meant more to me than anyone.”

Smith was born in Salford in 1957, and formed the Fall with friends Martin Bramah and Tony Friel as a teenager. The band’s output included 11 top 40 albums, including 1993’s The Infotainment Scan, which reached No 9. Smith has also collaborated with artists including Gorillaz, Inspiral Carpets and Elastica. His autobiography, Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E Smith, was published in 2008.

In 1983, Smith married Fall member Brix Smith Start; they divorced in 1989. He subsequently married Saffron Prior, who ran the Fall’s fan club. He has been married to his current wife, Eleni Poulou – who was a member of the Fall between 2002 and 2016 – since 2001.

His death was previously wrongly announced by the BBC in March last year, on his 60th birthday.

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