Tom Verlaine, Influential Guitarist and Songwriter, Dies at 73
Tom Verlaine, whose band Television was one of the most influential to emerge from the New York punk rock scene centered on the nightclub CBGB — but whose exploratory guitar improvisations and poetic songwriting were never easily categorizable as punk, or for that matter any other genre — died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 73.
His death was announced by Jesse Paris Smith, the daughter of Mr. Verlaine’s fellow musician Patti Smith. She did not specify a cause, saying that he died “after a brief illness.”
Although Television achieved only minor commercial success and broke up after recording two albums, Mr. Verlaine — who went on to record several solo albums and reunited with the band periodically — had a lasting influence, especially on his fellow guitarists.
“Tom Verlaine is the guitarist to mention these days if you’re a young rocker with some pretense to intelligence and originality,” Robert Palmer of The New York Times wrote in 1987.
The layered, often ethereal sound that Mr. Verlaine and the other members of Television developed was a far cry from the stripped-down approach of the Ramones and other leading lights of the punk scene. But that scene — which also included bands as disparate as Blondie and Talking Heads — was never as one-dimensional as it was often portrayed.
Mr. Verlaine, who was also the band’s lead singer and did most of the songwriting, studied piano and saxophone as a child, and his music had roots in everything from the free jazz of John Coltrane to the Rolling Stones’ hard-driving “19th Nervous Breakdown.” His often impressionistic lyrics reflected the influence of poets like Paul Verlaine, from whom the man born Thomas Miller took his stage name.
A complete obituary will follow.