Mark Lanegan, the renowned rock musician and Screaming Trees frontman, died Tuesday at his home in Killarney, Ireland, of undisclosed circumstances.
Lanegan’s death was confirmed in a Facebook post from his official account:
“He was a well-known singer, composer, novelist, and musician who died at the age of 57, leaving behind his wife Shelley. At this time, there is no other information available. Please respect the privacy of the family.”
Lanegan, who was born in Ellensburg, Washington, on November 25, 1964, had a rumbling roughness in his voice that could express the weight of the world. Screaming Trees, the hard-charging, psychedelic-rock band that got taken up in Seattle’s grunge gold rush, was fronted by that voice from the mid-’80s to 2000.
Throughout its troubled career, the band was most known for releasing the alternative-rock radio standard “Nearly Lost You” — the Sweet Oblivion single was also featured on the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe’s 1992 film Singles. He was also a member of Mad Season, the Seattle band comprising Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley, Screaming Trees’ Barrett Martin and John Baker Saunders.
Lanegan began composing and recording solo albums in between Screaming Trees albums, beginning with an abortive Lead Belly covers project with Kurt Cobain. The Winding Sheet, released in 1990, featured a stripped-down sound, relying heavily on the blues influence that would follow Lanegan like a briar patch throughout his career.
After Cobain’s death in 1994, the distinction between Screaming Trees and his solo music became even more important. “I have to detach myself from the whole Seattle atmosphere to continue with music,” Lanegan told Rolling Stone in 2020. “I had to keep everything under wraps to avoid being associated with this ex-grunge, drug-addict singer who never made it.”
Lanegan has proven to be ravenous in his collaborators and styles after the breakup of Screaming Trees in 2000. For over a decade, he was a member of Queens of the Stone Age, collaborating with former Belle & Sebastian singer Isobel Campbell, forming The Gutter Twins with Afghan Whigs singer Greg Dulli, releasing two albums with multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood, and guesting on tracks by Moby, Earth, Tinariwen, and others.
Lanegan was also a published novelist, having written three books. In 2017, he released I Am the Wolf: Lyrics & Writings, a collection of his musings on various lyrics throughout his career; his 2020 memoir, Sing Backwards and Weep, is a stark portrait of a musician looking back on a difficult life and the lives he has harmed; and just last year, he released Devil in a Coma, a terrifying collection of prose and poetry about his experience contracting COVID-19. According to the physicians and nurses, “apparently my light had almost gone out permanently more than once,” he said in an excerpt for The Guardian.
Mark Lanegan, for someone who was worried about his place in music, made every effort.
Mark Lanegan made every note ring louder than the last, even if it was a crooning whisper, for someone who was worried about his place in music. “This man doesn’t have to worry about being forgotten,” NPR Music critic and contributor Ann Powers said in a 2013 piece about Lanegan’s fresh creative peak.