Tom Verlaine's band, Television, along with the Ramones, Patti Smith and...

Tom Verlaine's band, Television, along with the Ramones, Patti Smith and Talking Heads, among other groups, influenced a generation of musicians. Credit: Redferns / Roberta Bayley

Tom Verlaine, guitarist and co-founder of the band Television who, along with the Ramones, Patti Smith and Talking Heads, influenced a generation of musicians and helped shape America's alternative music sound, has died. He was 73.

Verlaine died on Saturday in Manhattan, surrounded by close friends, after a brief illness, said Cara Hutchison from the Lede Company, a public relations firm.

It was New York City where Verlaine's Television in the mid-’70s, helped drive rock music in a more experimental, stripped-down direction while playing at the seminal club CBGB in lower Manhattan — Verlaine's distinctive, often off-kilter vocals and sometimes soaring, sometimes subtle guitar at the forefront.

"Tom Verlaine has passed over to the beyond that his guitar playing always hinted at," tweeted Mike Scott of the Scottish band The Waterboys. "He was the best rock and roll guitarist of all time, and like Hendrix could dance from the spheres of the cosmos to garage rock. That takes a special greatness."

Though Television never achieved breakout commercial success, Verlaine's jaggedly inventive playing as part of the band's two-guitar assault influenced many musicians. Television issued its groundbreaking debut album "Marquee Moon" in 1977 — including the nearly 11-minute title track and "Elevation." The album's title song featured wandering-spirit, Verlaine-penned lyrics, themselves influenced by Beat Generation poets:

I spoke to a man

Down at the tracks

And I ask him

How he don't go mad

He said, "look here, junior, don't you be so happy

And for heaven's sake, don't you be so sad"

The band's sophomore effort "Adventure" followed a year later.

“ ‘Marquee Moon’ has become something of a holy grail of independent rock in the years since. It has been a clear influence on such artists as Pavement, Sonic Youth, the Strokes and Jeff Buckley," Billboard magazine wrote in 2003.

Increasing tension between Verlaine and fellow guitarist Richard Lloyd led Television to disband after its second album. The group would reunite for a self-titled 1992 album for Capitol Records and sporadic live appearances.

Verlaine released eight solo albums, his most commercially successful being...

Verlaine released eight solo albums, his most commercially successful being his 1981 sophomore solo album "Dreamtime," and frequently served as accompanist to Patti Smith. Credit: Zuma Press / Globe Photos / Jeff Newman via TNS

"We wanted to strip everything down further, away from the showbiz theatricality of the glitter bands, and away from blues-iness and boogie," Television co-founder Richard Hell wrote in his autobiography, "I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp." "We wanted to be stark and hard and torn up, the way the world was."

Verlaine released eight solo albums, his most commercially successful being his 1981 sophomore solo LP "Dreamtime," which peaked at No. 177 on the Billboard albums chart. He frequently served as accompanist to Smith.

Tributes online included those from Susanna Hoffs and Billy Idol, who said Verlaine made music that influenced the U.S. and U.K. punk scene. Smith shared a tribute on Instagram, posting a photograph of the two of them together: "Farewell Tom, aloft the Omega."

He was born Tom Miller — later taking the last name of the 19th-century French poet Paul-Marie Verlaine after he met Hell, born Richard Meyers, at a Delaware prep school. They were tall, skinny, sardonic kids who dropped out and made their way to the East Village, where they worked in bookstores and wrote poetry together.

Verlaine "was noted for his angular lyricism and pointed lyrical asides, a sly wit, and an ability to shake each string to its truest emotion," said a statement from his publicist. "His vision and his imagination will be missed."

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