SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Local music legend Pat DiNizio, who rose to fame with his band, The Smithereens, during the 1980s, has died. His death was announced on The Smithereens Facebook page.
A 2015 inductee into the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Hall of Fame (Class of 1973), DiNizio, founded The Smithereens in 1980. The band featured DiNizio on vocals and guitar, Jim Babjak (guitar and vocals), Mike Mesaros (bass and vocals), and Dennis Diken (drums). The group was best known for the hit songs "Only a Memory" and “A Girl Like You” (see video link below) which peaked at no. 38 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
Flags in Scotch Plains will be lowered in Pat DiNizio's honor today, according to Township Manager Al Mirabella.
“Pat was a dear, personal friend who was a tremendous ambassador for Scotch Plains. He never missed an opportunity to say how proud he was of his home town. I’m glad that one of his final performances was in Scotch Plains, on the village green over the summer," Mirabella said. "I️ will miss his music, but more importantly I️ will miss my friend.”
Over the years, DiNizio battled a series of health problems, and The Smithereens had to cancel dates following a fall in which DiNizio injured his back and neck. In September, he announced to fans that reports of his demise were "greatly exaggerated" and that he was "not on my deathbed."
REPORTS OF MY DEMISE HAVE BEEN GREATLY EXAGGERATED! I SUFFERED A BAD FALL IN THE HOME THE OTHER DAY AND INJURED MYSELF, BUT TRUST ME, I'M NOT ON MY DEATHBED OR ANYWHERE NEAR IT:-I AM HURT, HOWEVER, RECEIVING GREAT MEDICAL CARE, BUT HAVE BEEN ORDERED BY MY PHYSICIANS TO TAKE SOME TIME OFF TO INSURE A COMPLETE AND HEALTHY RECOVERY, SO,WE'VE GOT TO TAKE SOME TIM E OFF FROM THE ROAD SO THAT I CAN GET BETTER, WE'LL BE RESCHEDULING A FEW DATES SO THAT I CAN HEAL PROPERLY... I WANTED TO PERSONALLY LET YOU KNOW THAT I AM ALIVE AND WELL AND ON THE MEND! WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU AGAIN IN YOUR TOWN VERY SOON - ALL MY LOVE AND MY VERY BEST TO YOU, PAT DINIZIO
Over the years, The Smithereens collaborated with musicians including Belinda Carlisle, The Kinks and Graham Parker. The band got its name from cartoon character Yosemite Sam's catchphrase, "Varmint, I'm a-gonna blow you to smithereens!"
DiNizio ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2000. In 2006, he starred with other rock stars including Joan Jett in the ESPN 2 special “7th Inning Stretch Baseball Meets Rock & Roll,” which highlighted his recovery from a life-threatening nervous disorder.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Pat DiNizio, lead singer and songwriter of the influential New Jersey rock band, The Smithereens - America's Band.
Pat was looking forward to getting back on the road and seeing his many fans and friends. Please keep Pat in your thoughts and prayers.