Pat DiNizio is probably the least known name to make my list. And that's too bad. Because Pat knew how to write a song. He wrote about love, life, and heartbreak. For 30 years or more, he made a living off of his music. But in the end, Pat DiNizio never really got the recognition he deserved.
Patrick Michael DeNizo was a native son of New Jersey, from the township of Scotch Plains. From an early age, he had a passion for rock and roll music - such and early age, in fact, that at 9 years of age he became a fan of the Beatles. That may not seem very noteworthy, but realize that at that time, the Beatles had yet to appear on Ed Sullivan and were known to very few in America. Another artist that he admired as a boy was Buddy Holly. Both Holly and the British Invasion-leading Beatles would remain as seminal influences. But in truth, he pretty much loved all rock music, from the Who to Black Sabbath, the Beach Boys and Frank Zappa.
Pat found his own niche with his band, The Smithereens, for which he served as lead singer and songwriter. I first heard them as a 20 year-old college student in 1988 and immediately liked their retro and classic-rock guitar driven sound and the catchy pop hooks of their songs. Catchy pop hooks were a specialty of Pat's. His lyrics tended to appeal to me personally and temperamentally with recurring themes of alienation, loss, and one-sided devotion liberally sprinkled throughout. "I'm in a lonely place without you", he wrote. "In the world of pain I have no peer". That's bleak stuff. But his tunes weren't bleak or dreary at all. Like his idol Holly, he was able to come across as remarkably overcoming when he sang about how he wouldn't be able to obtain happiness or togetherness with the objects of his affection. One thing that always came through loud and clear was his love for, his adulation of, his absolute commitment to music.
Between 1986 and 1989 The Smithereens put out 3 very successful albums. Their music appeared in movie soundtracks and videos in heavy rotation on MTV. Their biggest hit on the charts came from 1989's "Girl Like You". But the music landscape changed quickly, and they lost what support they had gotten from their record label after grunge appeared on the scene. The Smithereens, and Pat, faded quickly from relevancy. "But we had a long walk in the sun" Pat said in describing why he and his band continued on. Plus he had never really established any other trade. Pat found a way for them to continue to record and release albums throughout the following decades. He made money by going on a tour of hosted house parties in fans' living rooms. He made short films. He lived, like he made music, large.
Pat DiNizio passed away in late 2017. I'm glad to say that The Smithereens are continuing on without pretense that there could ever be any replacing of their man up front. He left behind a remarkable body of work, and catalog of songs. It's not only a memory.