Monday, March 8, 2010

Sad and Beautiful World: R.I.P. Mark Linkous

It's hard not to feel a little silly for being so saddened by the death of a pop singer. It's not something that you can tell someone and get a lot of sympathy for. You can't take the day off of work. There's no funeral you can attend, no wake, no shiva. Can you even 'miss' a person you never met? Despite my own self conscience awareness, I can't help but feel totally devastated by the loss of Mark Linkous, lead singer and driving force behind the band Sparklehorse.

Complicating the matter is the fact that aside from me, only about 7 other people have ever heard of the band. It's not like I can turn on CNN and watch thousands of fans flocking outside of Linkous' mansion, ala Michael Jackson. The very essence of Linkous and part of my attraction to his music was its utter secrecy. Every whispery lyric Linkous sang sounded like an intimate revelation between you and him; a secret shared by one sensitive soul to another. Linkous's music, evoking rustic beauty and often pain, had been with me since high school and has only grown more important in my life as I've gone through the ups and downs of adulthood. I could play a Sparklehorse song to celebrate a beatiful chilly fall morning or use it as medicine for my broken heart. Through some of the most disparing moments of my life, I have listened to Sparklehorse and found both an outlet and a salve. When Linkous repeats the line, "I will feel the sun shining down," it is both a promise and a prayer.

Linkous was no stranger to pain. While on tour with Radiohead in 1996 he overdosed on painkillers and passed out in a bathroom for 14 hours with his legs pinned behind him. He was paralyzed for quite sometime afterward and continued to have complications up until his death. He wrote the album, Good Morning Spider, largely from a wheelchair. Still, Linkous always seemed to me a person who found hope even at the very bottom of the ocean. The kind of guy who knew the sun was millions of miles away but at least it was there. He was a musical genius and according to all of the artists he has worked with (Radiohead, Tom Waits, Pj Harvey, Danger Mouse, and Julian Casablancas to name but a few) was a quiet, caring and sensitive soul. I had taken Sparklehorse for granted, waited, depended, on new albums, more beautiful songs to guide me through my troubled times. And now Mark is gone and I don't know if I can listen to his music anymore. Not for a while anyway. This Saturday afternoon Mark Linkous shot himself in the chest with a rifle in Knoxville, Tennessee in an alley behind his friend's house after reportedly receiving a distressing text message.

He will be missed.


  1. I too have been utterly devastated by this loss. I believe there are many of us around the world feeling the weight of this grief. You are not alone. Honor his work and spirit by introducing him to your friends so they can continue to live with him. Thank you for writing such an honest and vulnerable post.

  2. Lisa,
    Thank you for the kind words, I know there are many others out there but it's nice to hear from one. The world seems a little less special knowing there is no longer this incredible artist making magic in mountains of North Carolina.
    Thanks again.

  3. Anonymous9/3/10 17:43

    One of the best posts I've read on this blog! i hadn't heard of Mark before this, but i listened to the links you posted and they are truly great. thanks for introducing me to a great musician, he will be missed

  4. You're not alone in your grief. The people that I know who are Sparklehorse fans are all equally heartbroken. I've had a very difficult time coping with this myself. The tears haven't stopped flowing.

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone. While it's tragic that the world must go on without new art from Mark Linkous, it's just good to know that I am not alone in my grief. If you get a chance you should all check out Robin Hilton's piece on Linkous at It's very touching and says a lot of the things that I tried, far better than me.