Pat DiNizio, singer, songwriter and co-founder of New Jersey rock n’ roll band The Smithereens, died on Tuesday, December 12 in Summit, N.J. His death was first announced on the band’s website.
In 1980, DiNizio co-founded the band along with original members Jim Babjak, on vocals and guitar, bassist and vocalist Mike Mesaros, and Dennis Diken on drums and percussion. The band started out in Carteret, N.J.
The Smithereens built its reputation on a sturdy, melodic and guitar-heavy sound that spurred songs such as “A Girl Like You,” “Blood and Roses,” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep” and “Too Much Passion.”
“A lot of Smithereens lyrics are about two people who create a world for themselves against all odds, with everyone around them trying to keep them apart,” said rock critic Ken Tucker on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” “Everything in Smithereens world is like a film noir shot in psychedelic colors.”
DiNizio was born in Plainfield, N.J., on Oct. 12, 1955, to Nicholas DiNizio and Antoinette Gallo. His father ran a waste management business. He grew up in Scotch Plains and graduated from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. He later attended several colleges, including Union County College in Cranford, Seton Hall University in South Orange as well as New York University.
DiNizio worked for his father’s company while trying to break into the music business. “I remember completing ‘Blood and Roses’ while on the back of a garbage truck, oddly enough,” he told Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air.”
The band’s drummer Dennis Diken told the New York Times that The Smithereens had been working on new material before DiNizio’s death. They also were preparing for a tour and were scheduled to perform on January 13, 2018, at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank.
Guitarist and New Jersey native Ted Leo recalled The Smithereens who played at the now-defunct Dirt Club in Bloomfield, N.J. “Aw, man. Knowing that The Smithereens were a staple at my hometown’s Dirt Club early on, actually helped me understand that good songs, hard work, and a love of playing music can be a path to making some kind of life out of it,” Leo said.