The late Pat DiNizio received a rare honor for a rock musician, Tuesday, when a street in his hometown of Scotch Plains was renamed Pat DiNizio Way, in his honor.
DiNizio died in December, at the age of 62.
DiNizio’s fellow Smithereens bandmates Jim Babjak and Severo Jornacion attended the ceremony and spoke to a crowd of more than 100, and Babjak played a solo version of the Smithereens song, “Life Is So Beautiful,” accompanying himself on electric guitar. Also, Rick Winow — DiNizio’s bandmate in another group, The Scotch Plainsmen — sang his tribute, “A Song for Pat,” and Babjak read messages from Smithereens members Dennis Diken and Mike Mesaros, who were unable to attend.
The sign is on the corner of Montague Avenue and Westfield Avenue, in front of the house where DiNizio used to live, and where his mother, Antoinette, still lives. She was planning to speak to the crowd, but it was so cold that she sent a message to be read.
She did, though, come out of the house for the sign unveiling, and talked to fans and posed for photos. A message from DiNizio’s daughter, Liza, was also read by Babjak.
Mesaros’ message read, in part: “He was a gifted songwriter. Like the truly great ones, he captured our deepest feelings and emotions through words and music in ways we could not express. His silky baritone was the knife that cut through our hearts.
“As Pat got older, his voice became more poignant and sentimental. He was one of a kind. While fronting a rock ‘n’ roll band, he was like a playful and subtle jazz singer who had spent a lifetime honing his craft. …
“Until his last day on Earth, Pat embodied the ancient showbiz code that the four of us lived by: You’re only as good as your last show. No excuses. …
“More than anything, Pat was a friend and a brother to Jimmy, Dennis and me. We were so lucky to have each other: Four Jersey lads of one musical mind. A real band.”
Here is a portion of Liza’s written speech:
“My father revered his township of Scotch Plains. He missed no opportunity to quite literally sing hometown praises, from his childhood home on Front Street to his beloved ‘haunted mansion’ on Westfield Avenue. Eloquently shifting between salience and unmatchable wit, he told stories of Scotch Plains not just as a backdrop, but as a character in and of itself. His love of Jersey was lifelong and unfaltering.”
Among others who spoke was Scotch Plains township manager Al Mirabella.
“If you walked away from Pat DiNizio, and you didn’t have a smile on your face, or a good memory … then that was your fault,” Mirabella said. “That wasn’t his fault. Because he was a terrific guy, and a good friend of mine and many people here who loved him as a person and as a musician.”
The town will continue to pay tribute to DiNizio on June 30, with a pre-fireworks set by the Scotch Plainsmen at the Scotch Hills Golf Course.