Gerard Smith, bassist for Brooklyn art-rockers TV On The Radio, passed away on the morning of 20th April, 2011 after a courageous battle with lung cancer. He was 34 years old.
The band announced Smith’s illness through their website on 14th March, saying: “Gerard is fortunate enough to have health insurance and is receiving excellent medical care. Already we have seen dramatic results. Combine that with Gerard’s legendarily willful disposition and it might just be cancer that has the problem. We appreciate your concern and support for Gerard and his family.”
Despite Smith’s illness, TV On The Radio continued with the release of their fourth LP, Nine Types Of Light earlier this month through Polydor. Despite the fact that Smith was not scheduled to tour with the band to promote the album, his passing has caused TV On The Radio to cancel five North American tour dates as they grieve. In a statement on their website, the band says, “We will miss him terribly.”
Indeed, so will TV On The Radio fans the world over. And, so should anyone who appreciates ingenuity in indie-rock music. Smith’s bass work for the band served as the perfect foil for guitarist Dave Sitek’s high-frequency attacks, often resulting in mixes that were thick with both ear-piercing treble notes and thumping, low bass rumblings. This effect is most evident on the band’s first real mainstream success, 2006’s Return To Cookie Mountain, but Smith’s presence is felt throughout the remainder of the band’s catalogue. Often, his bass work serves as the mooring that keeps TV On The Radio’s frenetic experimentalism grounded.
Smith’s passing certainly imbues Nine Types Of Light with a air of importance and finality, adding even more weight to its brilliance. His passing should serve as an opportunity to look back at the indelible mark that he and TV On The Radio have made on popular music in the 21st century.
Below, TV On The Radio perfom Wolf Like Me on The Late Show With David Letterman in 2006.