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Mark E. Smith, Acerbic Leader Of The Fall, Dies At 60

Mark E. Smith onstage with The Fall in London in 2016.
Robin Little
Mark E. Smith onstage with The Fall in London in 2016.

Mark E. Smith, founder and frontman of the UK band The Fall, has died at the age of 60. The band's manager, Pam Vander, said in a written statement, "He passed this morning (24th January) at home. A more detailed statement will follow in the next few days."

The Fall is known as one of the defining post-punk bands of the mid-1980s, mixing punk's acerbic attitude with various elements of krautrock, garage rock and art rock. At the center was Smith, speak-shouting his way through class-politics diatribes and stories of scummy people.

Smith was born in 1957 north of Manchester, England, to a working-class family. He formed The Fall in the late '70s, and in a four-decade career the band put out 32 albums along with a number of EPs, live records and guest appearances with other bands. Smith was famously difficult: He's the only constant in The Fall's long string of lineups, and he was arrested in 1998 for assaulting his then-girlfriend, keyboard player Julie Nagle.

In 2017 Smith was hospitalized and had to cancel tour dates, returning to the stage in a wheelchair later in the year. His influence can be heard throughout punk and other styles today; as the news spread today, artists such as Billy Bragg and Liz Phair tweeted their remembrances.

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Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.