Mark E. Smith, the post-punk visionary who fronted the Fall for four decades, died on Wednesday at the age of 60.
“It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of Mark E. Smith,” the band’s manager Pam Vander said in a statement. “He passed this morning at home. A more detailed statement will follow in the next few days. In the meantime, Pam & Mark’s family request privacy at this sad time.”
Part musical hypnotist, part ranting madman, Smith was a singular figure in post-punk. His Mancunian accent, dry witticisms and plays on words were one of the Fall’s most constant characteristics. Their songs were odysseys into his ever-verbose psyche, marked by repetitive rhythms and melodies. His influence resounded in the music of Pavement, Sonic Youth and the early 2000s New York dance-punk scene.
A fiercely independent thinker noted for his temperamental nature, Smith ushered the Fall through countless lineups and guises as the band’s sole original member. The group began with a slightly off-kilter take on the punk sound, in line with Britain’s musical revolution of 1977, but quickly became artier, focusing on forceful rhythms that owe equal debt to skiffle, Krautrock and Smith’s omnipresent oration.
The group never became a commercial success (their biggest hit was a cover of the Kinks’ “Victoria”) yet it nurtured a dedicated cult following with frequent touring and the release of 32 original albums prior to Smith’s death. The band’s most recent effort, 2017’s raucous New Facts Emerge, made it to Number 35 on the British charts, yet failed to make an impact in the U.S.