Tom Verlaine, the frontman, songwriter and legendary guitar player of the New York City band Television, has died aged 73.

His death was announced by Jesse Paris Smith, the daughter of Patti Smith, who said that he died “after a brief illness”.

Verlaine, who was born Thomas Miller in Denville, New Jersey, began studying piano at an early age but switched to the saxophone after hearing a record by Stan Getz.

Right to Left: Robert Forster, Australian musician and former member of the Go-Betweens and Tom Verlaine of Television performs on stage at Hammersmith Odeon, London, 28 May 1977.

It was during his adolescence that he was inspired to take up the guitar after hearing the Rolling Stones’ 1966 hit 19th Nervous Breakdown.

He adopted his stage name in a reference to the French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine.

He and his school friend, Richard Hell, who shared a passion for music and poetry, moved to New York City separately and in 1972 they formed the group Neon Boys, which comprised Verlaine on guitar and vocals, Hell on bass and vocals, and Billy Ficca on drums.

The group lasted a short while then in March 1973 they reformed, calling themselves Television, and recruited Richard Lloyd as a second guitarist. Their first gig was in March 1974. In 1975, Hell left the band and they released their first single with Fred Smith replacing Hell.

Verlaine, who was the band’s lead singer and did most of the songwriting, once dated poet and musician Patti Smith when they were part of the emerging New York punk scene, and they would collaborate many times over the years.

Television released two albums, Marquee Moon and Adventure, to great critical acclaim but only modest sales. Marquee Moon is considered one of the defining releases of the punk era.

The band broke up in July 1978 but Verlaine embarked on a solo career in the 1980s and lived in England for a time.

Television reformed in 1992 releasing a self-titled third album and performed live on an irregular basis.

Mike Scott of The Waterboys tweeted: “Tom Verlaine has passed over to the beyond that his guitar playing always hinted at. 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.”

He added: Tom Verlaine … first heard on Patti Smith’s “Hey Joe” and “Break It Up”, and Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel”, the most incredible, otherworldly guitar playing. Jazzblown, fantastic, inspired. Never surpassed, never equalled except by himself.”

Susanna Hoffs, founding member of The Bangles wrote “Peace and love, Tom Verlaine” followed by a broken heart emoji.

Stuart Braithwaite of the band Mogwai tweeted: “Devastated by this news. Tom Verlaine was a true great. His role in our culture and straight up awesomeness on the electric guitar was completely legendary. Name 10 minutes of music as good as Marquee Moon. You can’t. It’s perfect. Rest in peace Tom.”

The music writer and author Corbin Reiff tweeted: “Tom Verlaine. The patron saint of the impossibly cool lead guitarist. RIP to a one-of-a-kind”.

Of his distinctive guitar-playing style, Verlaine told a Guitar Player interviewer in 2005: “I never played guitar along with records, so I never learned all the speed licks everybody gravitates to when starting out.

“I know 19-year-old guitarists who can play Danny Gatton solos note-for-note. They don’t really know what notes they’re playing, but they do them flawlessly.”

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