Andy Rourke's former bandmates in the Smiths have issued heartfelt tributes to the beloved bassist, who died this morning (May 19) at age 59 following a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Guitarist Johnny Marr was the first to announce the news on social media, and later shared a longer note about the musician he first met as a pre-teen in Manchester, England. "Andy and I met as schoolboys in 1975," he began. "We were best friends, going everywhere together. When we were 15, I moved into his house with him and his three brothers and I soon came to realize that my mate was one of those rare people that absolutely no one doesn’t like. "Andy and I spent all our time studying music, having fun, and working on becoming the best musicians we could possibly be. Back then Andy was a guitar player and a good one at that, but it was when he picked up the bass that he would find his true calling and his singular talent would flourish. "Throughout our teens we played in various bands around South Manchester before making our reputations with the Smiths from 1982 to 1987, and it was on those Smiths records that Andy reinvented what it is to be a bass guitar player. "I was present at every one of Andy’s bass takes on every Smiths session. Sometimes I was there as the producer and sometimes just as his proud mate and cheerleader. Watching him play those dazzling baselines was an absolute privilege and genuinely something to behold. But one time which always comes to mind was when I sat next to him at the mixing desk watching him play his bass on the song 'The Queen Is Dead.' It was so impressive that I said to myself ‘I’ll never forget this moment.’ "We maintained our friendship over the years, no matter where we were or what was happening and it is a matter of personal pride as well as sadness that the last time Andy played on stage was with me and my band at Madison Square Garden in September 2022. It was a special moment that we shared with my family and his wife and soul mate Francesca. "Andy will always be remembered, as a kind and beautiful soul by everyone who knew him, and as a supremely gifted musician by people who love music. Well done Andy. We’ll miss you brother." When the Smiths split for good in 1987, Rourke and the band's drummer and second guitarist, Mike Joyce and Craig Gannon, quickly began contributing to frontman Morrissey's solo material. The reunion was short-lived, however, and Rourke and Joyce eventually sued Morrissey and Marr for back royalties. "Sometimes one of the most radical things you can do is to speak clearly. When someone dies, out come the usual blandishments -- as if their death is there to be used. I'm not prepared to do this with Andy," Morrissey wrote of Rourke on his website. "I just hope -- wherever Andy has gone -- that he's OK. He will never die as long as his music is heard. He didn't ever know his own power, and nothing that he played had been played by someone else. His distinction was so terrific and unconventional and he proved it could be done. He was also very, very funny and very happy, and post-Smiths, he kept a steady identity -- never any manufactured moves. I suppose, at the end of it all, we hope to feel that we were valued. Andy need not worry about that." "Not only the most talented bass player I've ever had the privilege to play with but the sweetest, funniest lad I've ever met," Joyce wrote on Twitter. "Andy's left the building, but his musical legacy is perpetual. I miss you so much already. Forever in my heart mate." "I am so saddened to hear this news! Andy was a superb musician and a lovely guy," added longtime Smiths and Morrissey producer Stephen Street on Twitter. "I haven’t been able to read any other news about details yet but I send my deepest condolences and thoughts to his friends and family."