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Mark E Smith, singer and founder of John Peel’s favourite band, dies

PUBLISHED: 09:35 25 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:42 25 January 2018

File photo dated 16/06/05 of The Fall singer Mark E Smith who has died aged 60 at home on Wednesday morning, the band's manager Pam Van Damned said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday January 24, 2018. See PA story DEATH Smith. Photo credit should read: YUI MOK/PA Wire

File photo dated 16/06/05 of The Fall singer Mark E Smith who has died aged 60 at home on Wednesday morning, the band's manager Pam Van Damned said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday January 24, 2018. See PA story DEATH Smith. Photo credit should read: YUI MOK/PA Wire


The Fall’s Mark E Smith has died at the age of 60.

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The Fall’s Mark E Smith has died at the age of 60.

The singer-songwriter, who co-founded John Peel’s favourite band at just 19, passed away on Wednesday morning.

His prolific and hugely influential band released thirty-two studio albums, and more than three times that number when live albums and compilations are taken into account.

They had a long association with BBC disc jockey John Peel, who lived in Stowmarket and he championed them from early on in their career and described them as his favourite band.

Peel famously said of The Fall, “they are always different; they are always the same.”

The Fall did 24 sessions for Peel’s radio show between 1978 and 2004. They first recorded the first in May 1978, four months before the delayed release of their debut EP.

It marked the start of a long relationship between Peel and the band, which would often premiere their new material on his radio shows.

John Peel’s widow, Sheila Ravenscroft, said she was sad to learn of his death and that she and John had attended numerous gigs by The Fall.

“They had a huge amount of sessions for the programme and he was definitely a long time favourite of John’s,” she said.

“They were totally unique and I think that was part of their appeal. I met Mark several times but he was not the sort of person you’d talk to for long periods. He was a one off.

“The Fall were what they were, and he refused to compromise, and I think that is what appealed to John about them.”

Smith’s partner Pam Vander, who is also the band’s manager, said in a statement: “It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of Mark E Smith.

“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.”

Vander, who previously used the stage name Pam Van Damned, said in a message posted on Twitter that it was “the day I’ve been dreading”.

Further details have not been given but last year the band were forced to cancel a string of shows due to the musician’s ill health.

A message on the band’s website in August cancelling gigs in the US said it was “due mostly to terrible timing, reality and a mix of bizarre and rare (true to form) medical issues that Mark is currently being treated for”.

It continued: “Unfortunately it would be a gamble on his health to fly anywhere over the next couple of months. Mark’s current problems are connected to his throat, mouth/dental & respiratory system... so throwing all the meds together and continuing with the travel/shows would certainly harm any progress that we have made over the past few weeks.”

Simon Wolstencroft, bandmate and drummer with The Fall, told the BBC: “(He was) a very good friend to me. He really looked after me in my 11-year tenure with the band, from (1986) and through (1997).

“Always made me laugh, and what an iconic singer to have worked for. I’m very saddened by the news, although it’s not totally unexpected at this point, because we heard he was very ill.

The musician said of Smith’s impact: “Basically, (Radio 1 DJ John Peel) played the band all the time and I was lucky enough to do a lot of Radio 1 sessions with him. It’s just so sad, really.

“Of course, his influences travel a long, long way to bands like Pulp, and new bands now like Cabbage, and many other bands have been influenced by him. It’s a sad day.”

Asked why the former drummer lasted so long in the band, Wolstencroft said: “(11 years) was a long time but Mark had a mutual respect for myself which is why I lasted so long. And he was a funny guy, very intelligent, and of course, his lyrics superb.

“I think he veered away from the mainstream deliberately all along. When computer technology came out, he didn’t really want to know about that. He just wanted to write down what he’d been thinking about and what he thought about people.

“Just recently, his interviews have been the most entertaining thing about Mark, rather than the actual band. He’s always got a good quote and some of it’s true, some of it not quite so true, but I always enjoyed listening to his interview after I’ve left the band.”

DJ Rob Da Bank was among those to pay tribute to Smith, calling him a “legend”.

He said on Twitter: “Oh no..devastated to hear that Mark E Smith has died... The Fall played at Bestival and Camp Bestival..once after I’d spent an hour in their portakabin persuading a tipsy Mark that going on after the naked @cubanbrothers would make sense..legend! RIP .”

Jeremy Vine tweeted: “Mark E Smith - one of the greatest rock stars ever produced by this country. The last time I saw The Fall, in 2017, he felt unwell on stage and sang all the songs from inside his dressing room.”

Simone Butler of Primal Scream posted a message on Twitter saying: “Thanku for the music.”

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