Tom Verlaine, punk-rock pioneer and legendary Television frontman, dies at 73

Tom Verlaine, the influential guitarist and frontman of the pioneering punk-rock band Television, died in Manhattan on Jan. 28, Patti Smith's daughter Jesse Paris Smith confirmed to The New York Times. He was 73.

While Smith did not disclose a cause, she told the outlet that Verlaine, born Thomas Miller, died "after a brief illness."

Born in Denville, N.J., in 1949, Verlaine expressed an interest in both writing and music from a young age, picking up the piano and saxophone before moving on to the guitar as a teenager. During his time as a student at Sanford School in Delaware, he struck up a fast friendship with fellow future punk icon Richard Hell before he ultimately decided to escape to New York City in the late '60s and take on the name Tom Verlaine — a nod to the French poet Paul Verlaine.

Tom Verlaine of Television performs on stage at Hammersmith Odeon, London, 16 April 1978. (Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns)
Tom Verlaine of Television performs on stage at Hammersmith Odeon, London, 16 April 1978. (Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns)

Gus Stewart/Redferns Tom Verlaine, frontman of the pioneering 1970s punk-rock band Television, has died.

Verlaine and Hell later reunited in New York City and formed a group called the Neon Boys alongside drummer Billy Ficca. The rock outfit disbanded only to return in 1973 with a new name — Television — and a new guitarist, Richard Lloyd.

Together, the band went on to shape the sound of New York City's burgeoning punk-rock scene and new-wave scenes, alongside other artists like the Ramones and Blondie. They held a residency at the historic CBGB and performed at multiple punk venues across the city, including Max's Kansas City. After Hell left the group in 1975, Television added bassist Fred Smith to its lineup.

Television released two critically acclaimed albums — their punchy 1977 masterpiece, Marquee Moon, and 1978's softer Adventure — before eventually going their separate ways in 1978. Verlaine reunited with Television to release a third, self-titled album in 1992, and the band continued to perform in recent years.

In addition to Television, Verlaine kick-started his solo career in 1979, releasing 10 albums over the years. He was also a frequent collaborator with fellow artists, including Patti Smith, and recorded guitar for two songs on Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha's second solo record, Look to the Sky, in 2012.

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