It's been a bad winter for my musical heroes.
Tracing not only the music of Sparklehorse (née Mark Linkous)—which often grappled with the difficult, dichotomous intensities of life—but also his myriad collaborations, one quickly sees his interest and investment in those darker corners of existence, the shadows in which he seems to have ultimately lost himself. Like all great artists, Mark Linkous was apparently perpetually restless, always looking for new cohorts (or substances) to reveal new avenues of artistic (or self-destructive) exploration. He worked with Daniel Johnston—no stranger to emotional and mental anguish—on an album called Fear Yourself. After an overdose in 1996, Linkous released two somber, brutally honest albums, Good Morning Spider and It's A Wonderful Life. The irony of that second title stings even more now. It's A Wonderful Life saw collaborations with fellow excavators of heartache, including Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, and—perhaps most notably—Vic Chesnutt. Chesnutt also joined Linkous on his recent Dark Night of the Soul project with Danger Mouse and David Lynch. My friend Casey told me Linkous was in Athens just weeks ago performing at a memorial for Chesnutt...
We like our artists earnest and sincere. When they sing sad songs, we want them to be truly sad. It sounds better that way. David Lynch has often responded to questions about the darkness and melancholia of his films by saying that his art is simply an outlet for a portion of his emotional life—ostensibly a way to exorcise his nightmares. Otherwise, he's a happy, content, jovial Mid-Westerner. It was always clear that Linkous's music presented a more complete picture of a damaged man. And we loved him for that directness; for the honest chronicling of his struggles to find light in the darkness. Because we could relate and because it resulted in incredibly beautiful music. He probed the depths—the edges of which we skirted and were intrigued—and brought back hard-earned relics of the wonder of pain and fear and beauty and heartbreak. He was our canary, heading down before (and for) us and sending back transmissions from the shadowy recesses into this sad and beautiful world. And he didn't make it back...
"Sad & Beautiful World"
"It's A Wonderful Life"
David Wm. Sims from Jesus Lizard has some eloquent and poignant words regarding Mark Linkous's suicide worth sharing:
"I was crushed to hear that Mark Linkous took his own life Saturday. I had the great honor of playing with Sparklehorse on a 1999 European tour. Mark was always kind and gracious and that tour will always be a highlight of my career. His songs have a aching emotional intensity that still leave me gasping, the kind of songs that make you feel you’d been confided in, that someone has left themselves nakedly vulnerable to make you understand what they are trying to say. I love the way he sang, tuneful but free of unnecessary ornamentation. Our world is sadder and less beautiful without him."