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Mark E. Smith.

Mark E. Smith (1957­–2018)

Mark E. Smith, the notoriously ill-tempered frontman of English post-punk band the Fall, as well as its only constant member since he founded the group in 1976, has died at sixty, reports The Guardian. Smith’s irascible persona, coupled with ferocious, often literary lyrics delivered in his distinct vocal style—described by one critic as “the mad bark of a bellicose street hawker”—secured his place in the pantheon of rock. As the Fall’s lead singer and songwriter, Smith recorded thirty-two studio albums and just as many live ones. Among his influences were the Sex Pistols, Can, Edgar Allen Poe, Thomas Hardy, Black Sabbath, and Philip K. Dick.

Born in 1957, Smith started the Fall in Manchester as a teenager alongside Martin Bramah and Tony Friel. Over the course of four decades, sixty-six musicians would join and leave the Fall’s lineup—nearly one-third of all its members lasted less than a year—causing Smith to quip once that “If it’s me and your granny on bongos, then it’s the Fall.” In addition to his work with the band, Smith also released two spoken-word albums that featured lyrics from the Fall, experimented with playwriting and acting, and appeared as a guest vocalist alongside numerous musicians including Edwyn Collins and Gorillaz. The dancer and choreographer Michael Clark collaborated with the band on several occasions. For the Charles Atlas film starring Clark, Hail the New Puritan (1985–1986), the Fall provided music and Mark E. Smith appeared along with his then-wife Brix Smith. Additionally, the band’s 1988 album I Am Kurious Oranj was written as a soundtrack for the Clark ballet I Am Curious Orange, which was performed at Sadler’s Wells Theater in London with the Fall on stage.

While no cause of death was revealed, Smith was hospitalized last year for throat, mouth, and respiratory system issues, and was forced to cancel concert dates in the US last summer. “It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of Mark E. Smith,” the band’s manager said in a statement released on Twitter. “He passed this morning at home. A more detailed statement will follow in the next few days.”

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