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Tim Smith, Cardiacs frontman, dies aged 59

Cardiacs
(Image credit: Cardiacs)

Tim Smith, frontman of the legendary, wildly eclectic British 'pronk' (opens in new tab) band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59.

"Just been told Tim Smith of Cardiacs fame is no longer with us," said (opens in new tab) Broadcaster and former Prog Awards host Matthew Wright. "He’s singing to god in person I guess. My deepest condolences to his loved ones, his many friends and countless fans. A sad day for music." 

Formed in 1977 by Smith with his brother James ‘Jim’ Smith (bass), Michael Pugh (vocals) and Peter Tagg (drums), Cardiacs were known for their idiosyncratic sound - which blended the compositional complexity of prog, the experimentalism of psychedelia and the fearless, confrontational energy of punk. The unique sonic blend was often referred to as 'pronk' (opens in new tab).

Though the band's nine-album discography, which stretched from 1980 to 1999, never met with great commercial success, they were hugely influential to the likes of Radiohead and Blur, the latter of whom invited (opens in new tab) Cardiacs to open for them at their massive Mile End Stadium gig in 1995.

As their frontman, Smith was the ringleader of Cardiacs' famously wild and unpredictable live performances, which - along with their resolutely non-conformist music - made them as divisive as they were influential (they were pelted (opens in new tab) with coins during the aforementioned 1995 stadium gig.)

In 2008, Smith suffered (opens in new tab) a heart attack. Smith also suffered brain damage from the attack, due to a lack of oxygen, and subsequently developed the neurological condition dystonia, which led (opens in new tab) to his retirement from live performance and the band's indefinite hiatus.

A crowdfunding initiative, launched (opens in new tab) in 2018 to help Smith with healthcare costs, raised over £120,000.

“Incredibly sad to hear about the passing of Cardiacs’ Tim Smith," wrote (opens in new tab) music writer Rhodri Marsden. "A unique musical mind, a wonderful man."

No cause of death has yet been revealed.

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Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player (opens in new tab). Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder (opens in new tab) and Unrecorded (opens in new tab). Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.