Musician Mark Lanegan has died at the age of 57.
The singer, songwriter and musician was known as the lead vocalist for Screaming Trees as well as being part of Queens of the Stone Age.
“Our beloved friend Mark Lanegan passed away this morning at his home in Killarney, Ireland,” read a statement posted to his Twitter account. “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. The family asks everyone to respect their privacy at this time.”
The American singer, born and raised in rural eastern Washington state, had survived a battle with Covid-19 that left him in and out of a coma for months-long stretches of 2021. His memoir Devil in a Coma, published last December, detailed his tortuous near-death experience, which included a Covid-induced fall that cracked ribs and a painful hospital stay laced with recurring hallucinations.
“More and more this was reminiscent of an unending stretch in county jail that I couldn’t shake, with my trial date being intentionally undetermined, constantly moved around just to keep me inside,” he wrote in an excerpt published in the Guardian. “Whatever was in this shitwagon I’d caught a ride on, it was no fucking joke. 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.”
Once a long-time drug user and friend of Kurt Cobain, Jeffrey Lee Pierce of the Gun Club, and Alice in Chains’s Layne Staley – all of which he detailed in his 2020 memoir Sing Backwards and Weep – Lanegan was called “rock’s great survivor”.
By 12, according to his memoir, he was a “compulsive gambler, a fledgling alcoholic, a thief, a porno fiend”. By 18, he had a lengthy criminal record which included breaking and entering, shoplifting, drug possession, vandalism, insurance fraud and 26 counts of underage drinking. “I wanted excitement, adventure, decadence, depravity, anything, everything,” he wrote in Sing Backwards and Weeps. Lanegan had been clean for more than a decade at the time of his death.
In 1985, at age 21, Lanegan was working for a video store in his hometown of Ellensburg, Washingston – what he described as a “dusty, isolated cow town” – when he formed a band with his boss’s sons, guitarist Gary Lee Conner and bassist Van Conner.
The Screaming Trees would go on to record seven studio albums before their breakup in 2000, and rose to fame as part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s centered around Seattle. (An eighth album, Last Words: The Final Recordings, which was recorded in 1998-1999, was released by drummer Barrett Martin’s label in 2011.)
Lanegan also embarked on a solo career during the peak of the band’s fame. His 1990 solo debut The Winding Sheet included appearances from Cobain and Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, and numerous grunge figures appeared on subsequent releases Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, Scraps at Midnight and the collection of covers I’ll Take Care of You.
Langean wrote his 2020 memoir at the encouragement of close friend Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef and TV host who died by suicide in 2018. Lanegan penned an obituary for Bourdain in the Observer.
“Anthony said, ‘There needs be a level of honesty beyond what you’ll be comfortable with for it not to be some crappy rock autobiography,’” Lanegan told the Guardian in 2020. “That was the last thing I wanted to do, ever. This might sound ridiculous, but if it’s not literature, I didn’t want to do it.”
Numerous musicians, many from the rock scene, paid tribute to Lanegan in the wake of his death.
“Mark Lanegan rest easy mate. A real singer,” tweeted British post-punk duo Sleaford Mods. “Oh no. Terrible news that Mark Lanegan has left us. Safe travels man – you’ll be missed,” tweeted musician Tim Burgess of the Charlatans.
“I am in absolute shock, a very beautiful soul has left this world. I love you brother,” tweeted friend and fellow musician Anton Newcombe.
The English musician David Michael Gough, who uses the stage name Badly Drawn Boy, tweeted that news of Lanegan’s death “properly stopped me in my tracks. I’m absolutely gutted. Met him on a couple of occasions and I was nervous because I loved him so much. He was a perfect gentleman, really kind. One of THE great singers of the last 30 years.”
Lanegan was “a supremely gifted performer, songwriter, artist and author, and we are devastated to hear he has passed away,” his UK publishing house, White Rabbit Books, said in a statement posted to Twitter. “His art will endure and only grow in stature.”
Lanegan is survived by his second wife, Shelley Brien.