Shawn Smith, the bluesy, alternative rock singer-songwriter from bands such as Brad, The Twilight Singers, Satchel and Pigeonhead, has died at the age of 53. The singer’s cause of death was due to Smith’s heart condition. Smith’s death was confirmed by his friend, actor Donal Logue. Logue wrote on Twitter, “Shawn Smith has passed away. He was a friend and a beautiful artist.”
Smith passed away on April 5 at his home in Seattle, on the 25th anniversary of the passing of Kurt Cobain and the 17th anniversary of Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley. Smith was a native of Spokane, Washington, he was born in the city in 1965, and came to Seattle in 1987, just before the Emerald City’s music became famous across the world. Smith’s first band in the city was Bliss alongside Satchel’s drummer Regan Hagar.
Smith is survived by his teenage son, Dove.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. One Tribute Said That Smith ‘Never Reached the Level of Fame Many Felt He Deserved’
In reporting on Smith’s death, the Seattle Times noted that the singer “never reached the level of fame many felt he deserved.” The Times goes on to report that Smith had recently been working on new material with Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard.
Smith founded Brad with Gossard in 1992 along with Regan Hagar and Jeremy Toback. That same year, Smith released his fist solo album. Brad’s first album, “Shame,” was released in 1993. In total, Smith released five albums with Brad. The most recent effort was 2012’s “United We Stand.” The band’s 1997, “Interiors,” featured another Pearl Jam member, Mike McCready. In their tribute to Smith, the A.V. Club said that the band name Brad came from the fact musician Brad Williams had a band that was using the name they wanted. That piece mentioned their 2002 review of Brad’s “Welcome To Discovery Park,” that Josh Modell described Smith as having a “beautifully unforced delivery” in a band that had a “gentle soul.”
In 1997, David Bowie spoke glowingly about Smith’s more electronic outfit, Pigeonhead.
2. His Music Has Appeared on 18 Soundtracks
According to Smith’s IMDb page, his music has appeared on 18 soundtracks. Perhaps most famously, his song “Wrapped in a Memory” appeared in the 2004 “Long Term Parking” episode of the HBO series “The Sopranos.” Other notable soundtrack credits include “The Girl Next Door” in 2004, “The Horse Whisperer” in 1998 and “Coyote Ugly” in 2000.
3. Smith Said that He ‘Never Focused on Making Money’
Smith told the Seattle Times in a 2016 interview, “I don’t deserve any more than anyone else. I just was never focused on making money. It was always about making the best songs I could make. That was my goal, to be a songwriter.”
4. Smith Famously Said that Prince Was His Biggest Inspiration
Smith told Classic Rock magazine in a 2015 interview that he didn’t aspire to be a singer but regarded himself as a drummer and guitar player in his youth. Later, he turned his hand to songwriting and told the magazine that “Prince was kind of my biggest inspiration.” In the same interview, Smith said, “I actually listen to myself a lot and I’m still fascinated that I’m able to do what I do with my voice. It feels like a separate entity to me, but I was born with it, it’s been really worked on and it’s my gift.”
In a separate interview with SongFacts in 2014, Smith elaborated on his Prince fandom saying, “Prince is kind of the rock in the center of it all. That’s where I really learned.” Smith said that he focused on Prince when he was learning to write songs. Smith added, “Everything I learned as a songwriter in terms of structure I kind of got from Prince, because he writes in a very specific way, you know, verse/chorus/verse/chorus, he has these things.” Smith went on to say that his “roots” are in Prince.
5. The News of Smith’s Death Has Resulted in an Outpouring of Emotion on Social Media
As news of Smith’s death spread, both his fans and fellow musicians have taken to social media to mourn the singer. On his Facebook page, one-time REM member and Posies founder Ken Stringfellow spoke about Smith saying, “So sad to wake up to the news about the passing of Shawn Smith. Shawn and I shared a mutual close friend, and thus Shawn would frequently house sit for me when I was on tour, writing (and sometimes recording) on my piano. The gentlest of gentle souls, with a voice that came from the deepest regions of the spirit… I hope he finds peace and rest on his soul’s onward journey.”
Here are some of the most poignant tributes: