The vocalist and composer Mark Lannegan, who made a name for himself at the head of the Screaming Trees and knew how to endure thanks to his participation in the Queens of the Stone Age, died on Tuesday in Ireland at the age of 57, after having become one of the reference voices of today’s rock.
The cause of the musician’s death has not been announced.
“Our dear friend Mark Lanegan passed away this morning at his home in Killarney, Ireland,” the statement said. “A beloved singer, songwriter, author and musician, he was 57 years old and is survived by his wife Shelley. No more information is available right now. The family is asking everyone to respect their privacy at this time.”
Screaming Trees was founded in 1985, with Lanegan joining guitarist Gary Lee Conner, bassist Van Conner and drummer Mark Pickerel in Ellensburg, Washington, a small town about 160 miles from Seattle, which set the house of grunge, which flourished in the ’90s with the success of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains.
Although they never enjoyed the popularity of these other bands, Screaming Tress were a huge influence on many others to come, mixing psychedelic rock, hard rock and even some folk throughout their eight studio albums. Two of his most outstanding works are ‘Sweet Oblivion’ (1992) and ‘Dusk’ (1996). After– and even before – the band’s dissolution in 2000, Lanegan remained active solo and in other bands. He released 12 solo albums, from 1990’s The Winding Sheet to 2020’s Straight Songs of Sorrow. Other notable projects of his career include the Gutter Twins, a collaboration with Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs, and occasional contributions to Queens of the Stone Age.
In his memoir Devil in a Coma, from which the Guardian newspaper published an excerpt, Lanegan recounted in a shocking way the hallucinations he suffered from the disease while regaining consciousness and losing consciousness in hospital intensive care. “This thing was trying to tear me apart, my body and mind, and there was no end in sight,” he wrote. Months earlier, he had been a furious denialist who spread different conspiracy theories about covid and refused to get vaccinated.
Although it was his most extreme experience, it was not the first time that Lanegan looked face to face at death, the result of a life full of excesses that took ahead of some of his great friends with whom he formed the “grunge” scene of the early 90s. A close friend of Kurt Cobain – the late leader of Nirvana – Lanegan had been admitted countless times because of his addictions, but he always managed to float to show his baritone voice with both the Screaming Trees and the Queens of the Stone Age or solo.
Throughout the 1990s, the singer combined his albums with the Screaming Trees, one of the pioneer groups of “grunge” although with a psychedelic touch, with his first solo adventures. However, it was his collaborations with the Queens of the Stone Age at the beginning of this century that offered him an even greater projection, especially thanks to his participation in the album Songs for the deaf (2002).
Josh Homme’s band showcased Lanegan’s talent in both records and live performances, but his cavernous voice reached new audiences and became one of the most sought-after at numerous rock festivals. That characteristic timbre was also a powerful claim for other artists away from hard rock, such as Belle & Sebastian singer Isobel Campbell, with whom she collaborated on three albums.
Their range of joint works hardly knew musical boundaries: from the alternative rock of Gutter Twins, which he formed with Afghan Whigs member Greg Dulli, to the electronics of Moby or UNKLE.