The iconic singer of the grunge era was a prolific collaborator, from his work with Queens Of The Stone Age to Afghan Whigs Greg Dulli
Mark Lanegan, the singer for the Screaming Trees, frequent musical collaborator, and prolific solo artist, has died. He was 57.
News of the musician’s death came via a post on Twitter from his official account, saying Lanegan passed away the morning of Tuesday, February 22, at his home in Killarney, Ireland. No other information regarding the circumstances of his death is available at this time.
Lanegan rose to fame as the singer of Seattle rock band Screaming Trees, releasing seven albums and five EPs over the course of the group’s 16-year career, before disbanding in 2000. Starting in 1990 with The Winding Sheet, Lanegan also carved out an impressive discography as a solo artist, releasing 12 albums including the most recent, 2020’s Straight Songs of Sorrow. He also frequently collaborated with other musicians, including a recurring role in Queens Of The Stone Age, three albums’ worth of material with singer Isobel Campbell of Belle & Sebastian, and his team-up with Greg Dulli from The Afghan Whigs, The Gutter Twins. His most recent release was a collaboration with former The Icarus Line member Joe Cardamone, called Dark Mark Vs. Skeleton Joe.
Lanegan was also a published author, most notably releasing his memoir, Sing Backwards And Weep, in 2020. He had previously put out a collection of writing called I Am The Wolf: Lyrics & Writings, in 2019, that assembled a variety of lyrics and short essays detailing his music and life. His most recent work, Devil In A Coma, recounted his medical crises stemming from contracting COVID-19 in early 2021.
Lanegan was notable for his distinctive baritone, a gravelly whiskey-on-sandpaper rasp that made him stand out amid the more traditional rock singers when his band first gained international prominence in the early ’90s.
Upon signing to Epic Records and releasing its major-label debut, Uncle Anaesthesia, in 1991 (produced by friend and similarly rising star Chris Cornell of Soundgarden), Screaming Trees quickly became one of the leading lights of both the grunge explosion and the oft-referenced “Seattle sound,” despite the band leaning far more into blues-rock and psychedelia than the heavier grunge sound of many of its contemporaries.
The musician spent much of those early years grappling with drug addiction, especially heroin, much of which was recounted in Everybody Loves Our Town: The Oral History Of Grunge. Despite this, the band reached its commercial zenith with 1992’s Sweet Oblivion, which included the Singles soundtrack hit, “Nearly Lost You.” Soon after, infighting and creative drift led to a hiatus and eventual disbandment, with the group’s 1996 album Dust serving as its final official release. (A collection of unreleased recordings was subsequently put out in 2011.)
Lanegan will be remembered for his signature voice, to be sure, but also for the far-reaching scope of his musical output. Everything from blues to soul to punk to electronica was tackled by the restless musician, often within the span of a single album. He will be dearly missed—and for those who haven’t heard his early solo masterpiece, Whiskey For The Holy Ghost, please take a listen to its first track, “The River Rise,” and remember a towering artist, gone too soon.
Lanegan is survived by his wife, Shelley.
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