In Memoriam: Billy Rath

Billy Rath

Billy Rath, bassist for classic punk band Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, has passed away after a long illness. He was 66.

Rath joined the New York-based Heartbreakers in 1976, replacing original bassist Richard Hell. He was featured on the band’s only studio album, L.A.M.F, which caught the attention of the Sex Pistols. The band went on tour with the Sex Pistols for their Anarchy tour, but the outing was marred by cancellations. The Heartbreakers would break up in 1978, reforming off and on for reunion gigs.

Following the split, Rath got out of music in the mid-’80s. “I disappeared in 1985 for health reasons or I would have probably died as was rumored,” the bassist told the Critical Mass Music Blog. “What I did was go back to school. I now have a BS in Psychology and a Masters in Theology. I was helping/counseling people with alcohol/drug addiction. I also became a minister and pastored a few churches helping people find a better way to live.”

Rath returned to music in the last few years and started a new band called the Street Pirates. Health issues stymied the group’s progress, though Rath reported he was going into the studio late last year to record an EP.

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Billy Rath.

Get daily bass updates.

Get the latest news, videos, lessons, and more in your inbox every morning.

Share your thoughts