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Mark Lanegan dead at 57

Mark Lanegan performs on stage at O2 ABC Glasgow on April 21, 2016
(Image credit: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images)

Screaming Trees singer and solo artist Mark Lanegan has died aged 57. The news was confirmed by a post on his social media pages. 

The post read: "Our beloved friend Mark Lanegan passed away this morning at his home in Killarney, Ireland.  

"A beloved singer, songwriter, author and musician he was 57 and is survived by his wife Shelley. No other information is available at this time. We ask please respect the family privacy"

Lanegan was born in Ellensburg, Washington, in 1964, and formed Screaming Trees in the town in 1985. He originally hooked up with his bandmates the Conner brothers – Gary Lee and bassist Van – when he was hired as a repo man for their father’s video store. After a debut LP on local label Velvetone, the band were picked up by SST Records in time for the release of 1987's psychedelic Even If And Especially When.

The Screaming Trees benefitted from the explosion of interest in music from Washington that coincided with the grunge movement, and in 1989 Langean recorded some Lead Belly covers with close friend and Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. They included a version of Where Did You Sleep Last Night, a version of which (with Cobain on guitar and backing vocals) appeared on Lanegan’s solo debut, The Winding Sheet.

1992's Sweet Oblivion album threatened a major breakthrough for the Screaming Trees when first single Nearly Lost You appeared on the soundtrack of Cameron Crowe’s film Singles, and after one final album - 1996's gothic masterpiece Dust - the band struggled to find a home for their next release, and dissolved in 2000. 

Meanwhile, Lanegan was steadily building a catalogue of solo material that generated the kind of critical plaudits usually reserved for only the most revered of musicians. The praise centred on his haunting, shadowy songs, and on his gravelly baritone voice, one that spoke to a life lived at the very limits.

"Songs are always an expression of joy for me, no matter how sad they may seem to somebody else,” he told Classic Rock in 2020. “I don’t even call it work, because songwriting is more like a gift that I’m able to enjoy. A gift that somebody gave me, though I don’t know where or why.”

Lanegan was a serial collaborator, making three albums with former Belle & Sabastian singer Isobel Campbell – including the Mercury Prize-nominated Ballad Of The Broken Seas in 2006 – as well as playing with former room-mate Greg Dulli (as The Gutter Twins), Joe Cardamone, Steve Fisk, The Walkabouts, Mad Season, Queens Of The Stone Age, Masters Of Reality, Eagles Of Death Metal, The Breeders, Soulsavers, Unkle, Earth and the Manic Street Preachers

Lanegan was also a critically acclaimed author, with his best-selling memoir Sing Backwards And Weep detailing his struggles with drug addition. 

"Up until now I would never talk about that time period, because I just wanted to keep making music,” he told us. “I didn’t want to get snagged with this huge ‘G’ on my forehead and always be thought of as the junkie grunge singer who never made it. That was the way I was painted many times afterwards. The fact that I’ve gone on to make some sort of career is a miracle in itself." 

And in late 2021, Lanegan published a second memoir, Devil in a Coma, chronicling the battles with Covid-19 that had put him into a coma for long stretches of the year. 

"Whatever was in this shitwagon I’d caught a ride on, it was no fucking joke," he wrote. "I’d taken my share of well-deserved ass-kickings over the years but this thing was trying to dismantle me, body and mind, and I could see no end to it in sight.”

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Fraser Lewry
Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 36 years in music industry, online for 23. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.