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Mark Linkous, Sparklehorse, R.I.P.

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The last time I interviewed Mark Linkous, the singer-songwriter better known to a generation of underground music fans as Sparklehorse, he spoke emotionally and directly about how his battle with depression had delayed his 2007 album "Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain" for nearly five years. At the time, he was feeling better and proud that the album had finally come out.

"I'm not saying I'm safe now--that I might never be depressed again--but it's not as dangerous as it was," Linkous told me. "You know, there's a great line in that show 'Deadwood,' where Calamity Jane says, 'Every day, you have to figure out how to live all over again.' Well, that's how I feel."

Tragically, Linkous shot himself in the heart on March 6 in Knoxville, Tenn. He was 47 years old.

Born and raised in Virginia, Linkous signed to Capitol Records in the mid-'90s on the strength of a demo. He released the critically acclaimed Sparklehorse debut "Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot" in 1996, scoring a modern-rock hit with "Someday I Will Treat You Good," and landing high-profile tours opening for Radiohead and R.E.M. While on tour, he passed out after mixing Valium with prescription antidepressants, and wound up partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for several months.

Linkous chronicled his surgeries and his recovery on the 1998 album "Good Morning Spider," and followed that with another strong effort in 2001's "It's a Wonderful Life." Often described as Southern Gothic or the darkest strain of alternative country, his distinctive sounds prompted a series of collaborations with other accomplished musicians, including one of his heroes, Tom Waits; Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips, and Danger Mouse, the superstar producer who is half of Gnarls Barkley.

Linkous reportedly was working on a new Sparklehorse album and was moving to Knoxville to set up a studio to finish it. And his collaboration with Burton/Danger Mouse and director David Lynch, a multi-media project called "Dark Night of the Soul," finally was cleared after a year of legal delays causes by Burton's record label to come out some time later this year.

Though he always suffered self-doubts, in 2007, Linkous described making music as the lifeline that lifted him up. "It hauled me out of the hole," he told me, adding that he hoped it could keep him "from slipping down into the vortex again and not being able to keep my head above water." Sadly, it was not enough.

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I can't begin to put into words, how saddened I am by this. Sparklehorse was one of my favorite bands, and greatly influenced me as a musician. I wrote some words, and included a compilation .zip file of my 23 favorite Sparklehorse songs here below, in case anyone is interested or have never heard Sparklehorse. He will be greatly missed:

Knowing that there won’t be new music from Sparklehorse fills me with an insane kind of sadness that I couldn’t shake all-day Sunday. The song “Sea of Teeth,” I still maintain is my favorite song ever written. While most folks will compare the vocal style as being akin to a more subdued Wayne Coyne, with minimalist arrangements not unlike Neil Young or Unbunny… Sparklehorse has some of the most beautiful lyrics ever written, and have always stood out to me. I never really can describe the kind of impact that his songs had on me over the years. “Sea of Teeth” captures exactly how I see the world at times - searching for beauty in the midst of colliding blood and exploding stars. Mark will truly be missed, but there are so many great songs from him... a part of him will still live on.

My introduction to Sparklehorse was with his collaboration with Danger Mouse.
Mark was an amazing talent, May he achieve the peace in death that he could not in life.

dear Jim Laczkowski - you say you love sparklehorse? that mark will be 'greatly missed'. yet you are willing to openly give away their music for free?

shame on you to show such disrespect.

what a shame, and sadness... so much wasted talent. the good ones are the ones to leave us, while the untalented and garbage diva, lip gloss music artists survive. it sucks!~ Thank God, i got to see them in Philly at least once!

oh how you will be missed! so much poignant beauty and love in your lyrics! I discovered you and loved and believed in you! My hero! "stay with my friend". I love you Mark

An incredible songwriter and unbelievable talent was lost on Saturday. May Mark's music live forever in our memories.

I am very sorry to hear of Marks suicide. My deepest sympathy goes out to his father and mother.

Grace: I appreciate your comment, but feel its best to engage in further dialogue via email. If family members wish for me to take down my compilation, then I will do so. I did it as a tribute, and most friends who haven't heard Sparklehorse, would feel inclined to buy his records after me introducing them to his music through a mix CD. If you feel that's a naive stance, then I suppose its your perception of things, and mine just differs a bit. I certainly didn't think it was a poor choice by any means, but I won't keep it up for long. I am certain that most individuals who hear his songs for the first time, would visit ITunes to purchase his recordings. Also, I work for a digital label that will be putting out a tribute CD for Sparklehorse. Proceeds will benefit the Chicago area chapter for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and I'm getting in touch with someone to help make this official. I will be in Knoxville in late April and plan to get in touch with family members or friends of Mark's. If folks feel it's shameful to share some of his songs for free temporarily, then I have no qualms with removing my mix entirely. It was done with the best of intentions and I'm sorry if I have offended you in any way. Again, if family members feel the same way as you do, then they contact me here, and I can happily remove it from my site entirely:


Mark Linkous made remarkable music. Delicate, disturbed beauty ran through his songs and lyrics, and he captured glum as well as any artist could—that was his brilliance. I suppose Mark was weary and tired and had no more joys. I remember so well our years at AHS—Charlottesville Virginia…seems like a million miles away….but yet, I’m still here. We were so very young, yet Mark seemed so grown. He was such a kind soul, such a talented artist, such a dedicated learner, such an amazing friend—a friend to all. He was simple, but yet, he was strangely complicated. He was intriguing, gifted, mysterious, courageous…I greatly admired he. Some of my fondest memories during my teenage years were when the jokes gathered in Mark’s parent’s basement to listen to him and his band play music. Yes, Mark actually hung out with the jokes. Of course, we were the 70’s jokes, yellow jackets, reefer and Past Blue Ribbon. We would chase shots of Seagram’s with Seven-up and smoke whatever we could smoke. But not Mark—not Mark—he didn’t party. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t a recluse, he went to the parties, but never partied. He was a songwriter first, and wanted to be sober musician. For Mark their was no need to combat peer pressure, he was much cooler than all of us, he was real, he was cool, just being cool. Black tattered leather jacket, chrome chains hanging from his ragged blue jean pockets…ripped t-shirt…and wind blasted twisted hair. I suppose once he hit the big city, the intense lingering and warping affects of constant booze and dope helped him write the dark, mysterious and gloomy songs, and graced him to feel the music he played. God Dame…maybe he wrote himself to death. Well, before his death, once again, he was a rising star, so why, why leave us now? I talked to Mark a few years back, at our dear friends funeral…I wish I new that day, I wish we new that day, I wish someone new that day of his pain and someone could have helped prevent this awful lost. But Mark lived a life of conscious pain…how were we to know. He was my friend, I believe his death was terminal like an illness, not a selfish act, it was out of his control, it was out of control. RIP Mark…RIP. I'm sorry he’s gone and my heart goes out to his family and friends.

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