Remembering Smithereens Singer Pat DiNizio

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Pat DiNizio (Photo from the Smithereens’ website)

The New Jersey rock band The Smithereens earned success and much respect with a series of albums, beginning in the mid 1980s. Their career changed dramatically on December 12, 2017, when Pat DiNizio, their lead singer and primary songwriter, died suddenly. DiNizio, 62, was reportedly rehabilitating from a fall in Summit, NJ, when he passed.

The Smithereens had been planning a tour the following month.

The band posted about his death on its website:

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Pat DiNizio, lead singer and songwriter of the influential New Jersey rock band, The Smithereens – America’s Band. Pat was looking forward to getting back on the road and seeing his many fans and friends. Please keep Pat in your thoughts and prayers.

“Today we mourn the loss of our friend, brother and bandmate Pat DiNizio. Pat had the magic touch. He channeled the essence of joy and heartbreak into hook-laden three minute pop songs infused with a lifelong passion for rock & roll. Our journey with Pat was long, storied and a hell of a lot of fun. We grew up together. Little did we know that we wouldn’t grow old together.

Goodbye Pat. Seems like yesterday.

Jimmy, Mike, Dennis”

The Smithereens were formed in 1980 in Carteret, N.J., by DiNizio (vocals and guitar), Jim Babjak (lead guitar, vocals), Dennis Diken (drums) and Mike Mesaros (bass). They released their first indie EP, titled Girls About Town, that year, followed by Beauty and Sadness, also an EP, in 1983. Signed to Enigma/Capitol Records, they released their debut full-length album, Especially for You, in 1986, which peaked at #51 on the Billboard LP chart. The group, which favored a melodic, ’60s-inspired power-pop-rock approach, followed that album with Green Thoughts (1988, #60), 11 (1989, #41) and two more charting albums, Blow Up (1991, their last for Capitol) and A Date With the Smithereens (1994 #133), as well as several others, including 2007’s Meet the Smithereens, on which they covered the entire Meet the Beatles album. They also released B-Sides The Beatles, in 2008, and The Smithereens Play Tommy, a remake of the Who’s classic album. The Smithereens’ final album was 2011, released that year.

The Smithereens in an early publicity photo (DiNizio, second from right)

The Smithereens placed four singles on the Billboard chart as well: “Only a Memory” (1988, #92), “A Girl Like You” (1989, #38), “Blues Before and After” (1990, #94) and “Too Much Passion” (1992, #37). Mesaros left the band in 2006 and was replaced on bass by Severo Jornacion.

Patrick Michael DiNizio was born October 12, 1955, in Plainfield, N.J. In addition to his work with the Smithereens he performed solo concerts and released four solo albums: Songs and Sounds (1997), This is Pat DiNizio (2006), Pat DiNizio (2007) and Buddy Holly (2009). He also recorded an audiobook, Confessions of a Rock Star (2009), which he turned into a show, and appeared in several films and television programs, including 1992’s Singles. DiNizio’s music was used on numerous film soundtracks, including Bull Durham and Backdraft.

In 2000, DiNizio ran, unsuccessfully, for the U.S. Senate from New Jersey. He came in fourth in the race and his campaign was chronicled in a documentary film, Mr. Smithereen Goes to Washington. He also tried out (also unsuccessfully) for a minor league baseball team, again capturing his adventures in a film, 7th Inning Stretch.

Watch the Smithereens’ “Blood and Roses” video

Related: Our review of a Smithereens concert in 2019, with a special guest singer

Jeff Tamarkin

7 Comments so far

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  1. Mike
    #1 Mike 26 May, 2018, 09:58

    So what exactly did Pat die from? Was he alone? Because all I’m seeing online is that he was recuperating from a fall.

    Reply this comment
    • Cyndy
      Cyndy 13 December, 2019, 09:42

      Mike, Pat probably died from either a blood clot or a heart attack. He was extremely overweight in his later years. He was an extremely talented artist. Miss him.

      Reply this comment
    • AgSpyder
      AgSpyder 29 February, 2020, 14:41

      In Pat’s words regarding what people should be told about his cause of death, “It’s none of anybodies F****ing business.”

      Reply this comment
      • Mike T
        Mike T 24 August, 2020, 14:57

        Agspyder, theres no reason to be rude. It’s completely normal to ask about Pats cause of death. People cared about him. Also the cause of death is usually printed in news articles but it wasn’t with Pat.

        Reply this comment
        • AgSpyder
          AgSpyder 12 December, 2022, 23:31

          Those were Pat’s words. That is what he asked me to say if anyone asked about his demise.

          Reply this comment
          • BobB
            BobB 22 December, 2022, 09:41

            AgSpyder, I think a lot of us are just hoping that it wasn’t suicide as a result of Pat’s long and painful recovery from his injuries. If it was due to something like a heart attack or blood clots, a lot of us longtime fans would still view it as tragic but might feel better knowing that it was natural physical causes.

  2. Da Mick
    #2 Da Mick 13 December, 2020, 21:31

    MIke T, whether it was Agspyder, or actually Pat saying it, they can’t help themselves — it’s a Joisey thing……

    Reply this comment

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