Before going to sleep last night, I heard that another great loss in the music world had taken place. As reported by Rolling Stone, singer/songwriter/producer, Mark Linkous (aka: Sparklehorse) took his own life yesterday (March 6th, 2010). According to the magazine, this has been confirmed by the late-artist’s publicist and the following statements have been officially released by Linkous‘ family.
“It is with great sadness that we share the news that our dear friend and family member, Mark Linkous, took his own life today,”
“We are thankful for his time with us and will hold him forever in our hearts. May his journey be peaceful, happy and free. There’s a heaven and there’s a star for you.”
I laid down with the assumption that I would wake up to endless posts and messages regarding Linkous‘ untimely death, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. I generally wouldn’t put too much thought into reporting news such as this, but that’s not because I don’t feel that it’s important. It’s usually because I don’t feel that it’s important for ME to report it, because sites swarm on to the stories of dead celebrities the way that buzzards swarm onto the bodies themselves. They don’t even wait for them to get cold, “Breaking News is Breaking News!” People will always get information like this, because it’s posted everywhere. Today, however, I fear that the loss of such a vital entity in the music world may risk being overshadowed by something as trivial and worthless as an award show.
When Darby Crash died, the story was buried under the news of the John Lennon shooting. While I’m sure that Darby would have loved to be the main headline, I’m not as convinced that Linkous would have rather had it any other way than to disappear quietly. One example to that is how, instead of focusing on his own name, he opted to release music under the moniker of Sparklehorse, which was essentially just a solo project. He wasn’t the type of artist who came across as demanding attention. He was the type of unassuming artist whose often subtle and beautiful compositions could make you feel like you noticed them on your own. Like a 4-leaf clover or an angel sitting in a dimly lit corner during a house party. He was one of the rare people that created something of such pure emotion that the tools that he was using to do it almost disappeared. No mixing boards or guitars- it was like sound just sort of flowed out of his chest and head in clouds of antique light.
One of his final masterpieces was last years Dark Night of the Soul, which he created with David Lynch and Danger Mouse. Next to the two other collaborative monsters, the name “Sparklehorse” was often lost or even unmentioned in conjunction with them altogether. I believe that his focus was always on the work and, as someone who has endured a suicide attempt of my own, I have to question if Linkous was even aware of his own worth or contributions to this world. Whether he ever truly realized it or not, those around him definitely did and his name has popped up repeatedly during the various articles and subject matter that we’ve covered on the site over the last few years. One of the first times that his name was brought up was during my 2008 interview with Daniel Johnston, when Daniel had mentioned that he had been working with Mark on a follow up to their 2003 collaboration, Fear Yourself. Linkous was a huge supporter of Daniel‘s music and worked as the curator/producer on the tribute album The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered. That album featured a collaboration between Linkous and The Flaming Lips, which carried over from his work with Stephen Drozd (Flaming Lips) on the 2006, Sparklehorse album, Dreamt for Lightyears in the Belly of a Mountain. Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton also worked on that release and last years DNOTS reunited The Lips, DM, and Linkous together for the last time.
It’s easy to posthumously examine the work of an artist after a tragedy such as this and, whether accurate or otherwise, it’s also very ease to make some assumptions about the hidden meanings in their work. While touring in support of the first Sparklehorse album, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot, Linkous faced an experience which nearly ended his life back in 1996. The songwriter, who was on tour with Radiohead, had overdosed in a London hotel room with pills and booze in his system. While my mom was in nursing school, she had taught me about how too much potassium can actually create cardiac arrest. From what I remember reading, this may have had something to with this previous situation. The story goes that his legs were pinned under him for 14 hrs without circulation and, after having them straightened by paramedics, a release of potassium buildup caused his heart to stop. Linkous has had several surgeries in relation to this incident and was confined to a wheelchair for a 6-month duration immediately following it. It has even been reported that he had died for 2 whole minutes. When his sophomore album Good Morning Spider was released in ’98, there was endless speculation that the album was largely written in reflection of that tragic scenario. However, Linkous denied much of that, stating that a good deal of the album was already written before that incident ever even occurred. Then there’s such things as the title of 2001 Sparklehorse album, It’s A Wonderful Life, that may imply the struggles and reassurance that the artist needed to keep him moving forward and to control his reoccurring depression. Most likely, no one will ever know exactly what many of his work meant from an intellectual level. Meanings can be found or lost in everything, even the fact that he had a song called “Saturday” (the die he died). Not everything is a puzzle to be solved, some things are just there to be experienced and, if Linkous accomplished anything, it was to create music which held enough power and emotion to speak to people without the triviality or barriers of human language.
Sean Tillmann (Har Mar Superstar) has mentioned that he and friend/colleague, Adam Green often joke about they are destined to become like Harry Nilson; a prolific artist who was ultimately less famous than everyone that he ever worked with, but who left an amazing catalog of evidence to his accomplishments to be studied after his death. Now Mark Linkous has left this world and, if you never caught onto his work while he was with us, he has left an amazing collection of gifts for everyone to experience now that he’s gone.