Tom Verlaine, Television Frontman and Influential Guitarist, Dies at 73
Tom Verlaine has died after a brief illness, a representative for the innovative guitarist and founding member of Television confirms to Billboard. He was 73.
Verlaine died peacefully and surrounded by friends in New York City, the rep says.
Born Thomas Miller in 1949, Verlaine was raised in Wilmington, Delaware, before moving to New York City in 1968 and taking on his stage name.
He formed Television, who became an influential fixture of NYC’s punk rock scene at CBGB in the ’70s, establishing an early residency at the legendary Lower East Side club with bandmates Richard Hell, Billy Ficca and Richard Lloyd. With Television he brought his signature guitar work and songwriting to two albums, 1977’s landmark Marquee Moon and 1978’s Adventure, before the group parted ways in 1978.
Verlaine then embarked on solo endeavors — releasing several of his own albums throughout his career over the next few decades, beginning with a self-titled record in 1979 — and reunited with Television periodically.
His early musical influences ranged from free jazz to the Yardbirds’ Five Live Yardbirds to the Rolling Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown,” and included John Coltrane, Pablo Casals and John McLaughlin.
“My first music experiences were with classical and then jazz,” Verlaine told Billboard in 2005. “I played sax for three years, so my real roots are in instrumental music. In fact, when I hear the term ‘music’ I never think of ‘songs.’”
Following Verlaine’s death, fellow musician Patti Smith’s daughter, Jessie Paris Smith, wrote a heartfelt, personal tribute on Instagram.
“Dearest Tom. The love is immense and forever. My heart is too intensely full to share everything now, and finding the words is too deep of a struggle. The feeling inside is so heavy, though your spirit is light and lifted, it is everywhere, completely and truly free,” she wrote on the post, where she shared a personal photo of the pair.
“I love you always and forever, and will always remember and hold close the touch of your hand – hands of a beautiful creator and of a love more warm, tender, delicate, and true that one can ever dream,” she wrote. “There has never been another like you and there never will be. What a blessing and gift I was given to share my time on earth with you. I will be grateful to the end of my life, and we will see you again beyond that, meeting you there wherever you’ve gone. Thank you leading the way.”