Music & Musicians

Screaming Trees Singer, Seattle Icon Mark Lanegan Dies at 57

Lanegan never saw major commercial success but won a devoted fan base that included critics and his fellow musicians of several generations

Mark Lanegan
Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns via Getty Images

Mark Lanegan, the singer whose raspy baritone and darkly poetic songwriting made Screaming Trees an essential part of the early Seattle grunge scene and brought him an acclaimed solo career, died Tuesday at age 57.

“Our beloved friend Mark Lanegan passed away this morning at his home in Killarney, Ireland,” said a post on Lanegan’s Twitter account, which called him “a beloved singer, songwriter, author and musician.” Management company SKH confirmed the death for the New York Times.

No cause was given. In a memoir released last year, Lanegan said a severe case of COVID-19 left him hospitalized in a coma.

Lanegan never saw major commercial success, but through seven full-length albums with Screaming Trees, 10 solo records and collaborations with Queens of the Stone Age and many others, he won a devoted fan base that included critics and his fellow musicians of several generations.

“Mark Lanegan will always be etched in my heart — as he surely touched so many with his genuine self, no matter the cost, true to the end,” John Cale of the Velvet Underground said on Twitter.

Iggy Pop tweeted, “Mark Lanegan, RIP, deepest respect for you. Your fan, Iggy Pop.”

Lanegan formed the Screaming Trees in 1984 in his hometown of Ellensburg, Washington. A drummer at first, he said he was so inept he had to become a lead singer.

With their mix of moody pop and hard rock that leaned into psychedelia, Screaming Trees was among the candidates that many thought would break big from the Seattle grunge scene of the late 1980s and early ’90s — though they would never see the widespread popularity of Nirvana and Soundgarden.

Their major label debut for Epic Records, 1990's “Uncle Anesthesia,” was co-produced by Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell.

The single “Bed of Roses” would get them played on MTV and modern-rock radio.

The Trees’ commercial peak came with 1992′s “Sweet Oblivion” and the single “Nearly Lost You,” which remains Lanegan’s biggest hit and best known song, thanks in part to its appearance on the soundtrack of the Cameron Crowe film “Singles.”

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The group would technically remain a unit until 2000, but Lanegan increasingly focused on his solo career during the 1990s, creating music that was quieter, more bluesy, and more broody, earning him the nickname “Dark Mark.”

His voice made him a sought-after collaborator with his fellow Seattle musicians. He sang on projects with Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready. He recorded a series of Leadbelly covers with Kurt Cobain. It would never be released, but Cobain would use their arrangement of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” in a memorable performance on “MTV Unplugged.”

Lanegan would lend his voice to five albums for Queens of the Stone Age, starting with their 2000 breakthrough “Rated R.”

He made three albums as a duo with Belle and Sebastian’s Isobel Campbell and formed another duo, The Gutter Twins, with The Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli.

He and wife Shelley Brien moved to Killarney in County Kerry, Ireland in 2020. He contracted COVID-19 soon after. He would write about that, his long struggle with drugs and alcohol, and his decade of sobriety in the memoir, “Devil in a Coma.”

“Mark Lanegan was a lovely man,” tweeted New Order and Joy Division bassist Peter Hook, with a photo of Lanegan joining him on stage. “He led a wild life that some of us could only dream of. He leaves us with fantastic words and music! Thank god that through all of that he will live forever.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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