Tom Verlaine, Frontman of Television, Dead at 73

He passed away following a "brief illness"

Tom Verlaine of Television
Tom Verlaine of Television, photo by Roberta Bayley/Redferns

    Tom Verlaine, frontman, guitarist, and chief songwriter of seminal guitar rock band Television, has died at the age of 73.

    Verlaine passed away on Saturday following a “brief illness,” according to Jesse Paris Smith, the daughter of Patti Smith. “He died peacefully in New York City, surrounded by close friends. His vision and his imagination will be missed,” Smith said in a statement.

    Hailing from New Jersey, Verlaine listened to jazz music and wrote poetry as a teenager — which would provided a unique musical foundation for when he finally he picked up a guitar. In the early 1970s he moved to New York City and, along with friends Richard Hell and Billy Ficca, formed a band called The Neon Boys. After finding little success, they recruited guitarist Richard Lloyd and rebranded themselves as Television.


    “I saw him play, and I knew he had ‘it,’” Lloyd recalled of the first time seeing Verlaine perform live in a 2017 interview with Consequence. “He had something, but he was missing something, and what he was missing I had. I was also missing something. What I was missing, he had. I knew if you put the two of us together, you’d have history. I knew that immediately.”

    Television spent three years making what would prove to be their debut album, Marquee Moon. Along the way, the band made a name for themselves with club shows at CBGBs and Maxwells, while repeatedly turning down record label offers. They also parted ways with Hell and replaced him with Fred Smith.

    Marquee Moon was finally released in 1977. In a 2017 retrospective for Consequence, Ryan Bray described the album as a “guitar rock masterpiece,” which “married artful technicality with the menace and energy of New York’s then-nascent punk scene.”


    Marquee Moon is pure music gumbo, a staggering combination of contrasting aesthetics that slashes with punk rock grit, dazzles with jazzy guitar virtuosity, and moves to its own particular muse,” Bray wrote. “It’s smart but tough, technical but accessible. Verlaine and Lloyd make a devastating guitar pair, especially on tracks like album opener ‘See No Evil,’ the sprawling title track, and the more classic-sounding ‘Prove It.’

    Years later, Marquee Moon remains one of the most influential rock albums in history, paving the way for bands like Pavement, Sonic Youth, and Built to Spill, just to name a few.

    Television followed up Marquee Moon in 1978 with a softer and more reflective released called Adventure. They disbanded later that year, citing creative differences and Lloyd’s drug issues.


    Television reformed twice, first in 1992 for the release of a self-titled third album and a supporting touring. They reunited for a second time in 2001 and played sporadic shows over the proceeding two decades. They most recently toured in 2019.

    Beyond his work in Television, Verlaine released several acclaimed solo albums, beginning with a 1979 self-titled release. Other notable titles included 1981’s Dreamtime, 1982’s Words from the Front, and 1984’s Cover. He also frequently collaborated with his one-time girlfriend, Patti Smith, contributing to her seminal 1975 album Horses, as well as to 1996’s Gone Again and 2000’s Gung Ho.