Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan has died aged 57


Mark Lanegan, the gruff singer-songwriter who shot Screaming Trees to fame during the Seattle grunge explosion of the early ’90s, before playing as a member of Queens of the Stone Age and in duos with the Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli and Isobel Campbell of Belle & Sebastian died Tuesday at his home in Killarney, Ireland. He was 57.

His death was announced by a spokesman, Keith Hagan, who did not provide a cause of death.

Coated with guitar distortion but embellished with a wistful melody delivered by Lanegan in his parched croon, “Nearly Lost You” became a Top 5 alternative rock hit for Screaming Trees in 1992. It capitalized on the success of Nirvana the year before, as well as its blockbuster Nevermind and the song’s placement in Cameron Crowe’s grunge romantic comedy Singles.

The film’s soundtrack, which also featured music by Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Mudhoney, sold 2 million copies and helped break grunge into the mainstream.

By this point, Lanegan had been playing with Screaming Trees for almost a decade; Uncle Anesthesia, the band’s first major label album after four previous indie LPs including SST, was released months before the September 1991 release of Nevermind.

Like other grunge acts, Screaming Trees — which Lanegan formed in a small Washington-town town in the mid-’80s with brothers Gary Lee Conner on guitar and Van Conner on bass and drummer Mark Pickerel — found a happy medium between heavy-duty classic rock and scrap punk. What set the band apart was their searching psychedelic streak, as embodied in Gary Lee’s sinuous guitar work and Lanegan’s deep, rumbling baritone vocals that might recall The Doors’ Jim Morrison; Lanegan’s lyrics contemplated depression and self-destruction in a literary language filled with vivid imagery borrowed from old folk and blues music.

Lanegan was born on November 25, 1964 in Ellensburg, Washington, about 100 miles southeast of Seattle. His family came from “a long line of miners, lumberjacks, bootleggers, South Dakota dirt farmers, criminals, convicts and backwoods of the roughest, most ignorant sort,” as he wrote in his 2020 memoir Sing Backwards and Weep. Lanegan has been open about the abuse of drugs and alcohol from a young age; In his book, he recalled being convicted as a teenager of vandalism, theft and underage drinking.

Lanegan met Van Conner in high school detention; Soon after, he got a job at the Conner family’s video store, confiscating TVs and VCRs from people who didn’t make their payments. Screaming Trees, which took its name from a guitar pedal, released its debut project, the cassette-only album Other Worlds, in 1985.

Even as the band was just starting out, Lanegan embarked on a solo career, beginning with 1990’s “The Winding Sheet,” which featured Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic. He released a total of a dozen solo records; the latest “Straight Songs of Sorrow” was released in 2020.

Screaming Trees broke up in 2000, but Lanegan never got tired of working together. He wrote and recorded frequently with Queens of the Stone Age, whose frontman Joshua Homme has toured as a guitarist with Screaming Trees, including 2000’s “Rated R” and 2002’s “Songs for the Deaf”. In 2006 he released the first of three LPs with Campbell; each drew comparisons to the Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood duo records of the late ’60s and early ’70s. With Dulli he formed the Gutter Twins, who released a single album in 2008, the lush but brooding Saturnalia.

During his career he has also recorded with Moby, Neko Case, UNKLE, the Breeders, Soulsavers and the Armed, among others.

Lanegan and his wife, Shelley Brien, relocated to Ireland from Los Angeles in 2020. Information on survivors beyond Brien was not immediately available.

In an interview with Spin last year, Lanegan called He had been pushed out of the United States by the pandemic and the Trump administration, but added that he was also “involved in some things I shouldn’t have been involved in.” Ireland, he said, “suits me for now. It was very good for me spiritually and emotionally.” Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan has died aged 57

Caroline Bleakley

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