Tim Smith, the charismatic frontman of influential British rock band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59.
The cult group formed in 1977 and have been cited as an influence by the likes of Blur and Radiohead.
They amassed a dedicated fanbase in the 80s but had been on hiatus since 2008, when Smith suffered brain damage after a heart attack and two strokes.
Smith’s brother and bandmate Jim wrote on their website on Wednesday that he “passed away suddenly last night”.
Two years ago, the band revealed the singer had developed the rare neurological disorder dystonia, which impaired his ability to speak and caused muscle spasms.
Cardiacs, originally known as Cardiac Arrest, fused punk rock with more melodious art-pop, thrash metal, prog and psychedelia.
When the Surrey-born Smith brothers formed the band, Tim originally took on guitar and backing vocal duties, before a personnel change saw him promoted to frontman.
They released eight albums and would also inspire bands like Napalm Death and Faith No More.
In 2011, Blur frontman Damon Albarn told Louder Than War: “Cardiacs were an early inspiration for all of us in Blur. I remember one of their gigs at ULU. It was amazing, one of the most magical live performances I’ve ever seen.”
Writing in The Guardian in 2015, journalist Pete Cashmore described them as “uncategorisable – a band who could be lovely one moment and unlistenable the next. But they inspire fierce devotion”.
On Wednesday, Mary Wren, who ran Cardiacs’ record label, wrote: “His fans loved him. He changed people for the better. He saved lives.
“His music was a refuge for those in need and he never locked his door or turned anyone away. I feel as if church bells across the land should be ringing out his name.”
In 2018, Smith spoke about his health struggles to The Quietus. He likened his condition to “wearing a skintight bodysuit made of fishnet all around you with electrical pulses going all the time”.
He said: “This is what my body feels like unless I fall asleep. This I have called my digital pain, and bashing my head or something what hurts loads or any sort of normal pain, like toothache, I call analogue. Also, I can’t write or hold a pen or use a computer.”
Smith took a break from Cardiacs in the 90s to work one other musical projects, including Sea Nymphs and Spratleys’ Japs, and later worked as a producer, video director and record label boss.
Following his ill health, events known as The Alphabet Business Conventions were held to raise funds for his recovery.
Reacting to his death on Wednesday, pop critic Simon Price described Smith as “a lovely man”.
“Incredibly sad to hear about the passing of Cardiacs’ Tim Smith,” added author Rhodri Marsden.
“A unique musical mind, a wonderful man. What a… day. But he’ll always be the dazzling light at the centre of a huge musical family.”
TV journalist Matthew Wright described his death as “a sad day for music”.