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Mark Linkous

Linkous performing in Richmond, Virginia in April 1992
Background information
Birth name Frederick Mark Linkous
Born September 9, 1962
Arlington, Virginia
Died March 6, 2010 (aged 47)
Knoxville, Tennessee
Genres Rock, lo-fi, indie rock, Alt-Country, Bluegrass, Folk, Psychedelic
Occupations Musician, singer-songwriter, record producer
Instruments Vocals, guitar, piano
Years active 1985–2010
Labels Capitol/EMI Records
Astralwerks/Caroline/Virgin/EMI Records
Konkurrent Records
Combat Records
Relativity Records
Anti-/Epitaph Records
Associated acts Dancing Hoods
Tom Waits
Daniel Johnston
PJ Harvey
Danger Mouse

Mark Linkous (September 9, 1962 – March 6, 2010) was an American singer, songwriter and musician, best-known as leader of Sparklehorse. He was also known for his collaborations with such notable artists as Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Daniel Johnston, Radiohead, Nina Persson, David Lynch, and Danger Mouse.[1]

A member of the 1980s indie band the Dancing Hoods, Linkous moved with the group from his native Virginia to New York City and later Los Angeles in hopes to achieve mainstream success. By 1988, the band had failed to land a major record label deal, and they disbanded with Linkous returning to Virginia, where he began writing songs under various monikers.[2]

By 1995, he had created a project named Sparklehorse, of which he would remain the only permanent member. The band released a quartet of critically well-received albums on Capitol Records: Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot, Good Morning Spider, It's a Wonderful Life, and Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain. Linkous lived the last years of his life in Hayesville, North Carolina, where he established Static King Studio. He committed suicide in Knoxville, Tennessee on March 6, 2010.[3][4]



Early life

Frederick Mark Linkous[5] was born on September 9, 1962 in Arlington, Virginia, to Gloria Hughes Thacker and Frederick Linkous.[6] He had three brothers: Matt, Paul, and Daniel Linkous.[6] Many members of his family were coal miners by trade,[7][8] and Linkous chose a career in music in part to avoid working in mines.[9] His parents divorced before he was 13.[10]

He would later characterize himself during his teenage years as a "juvenile delinquent", and began hanging out in a motorcycle gang at a young age.[10] During his adolescence, he was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Charlottesville, Virginia.[10] Linkous also attended Albemarle High School in Charlottesville, where he "went to school to see my friends-- that's the only reason I didn't drop out."[10] During his high school years, he began abusing alcohol and marijuana heavily.[10]

The Dancing Hoods

Shortly after graduating from high school in the early 1980s, Linkous moved to New York City, where he co-founded the band Dancing Hoods.[6][11] The band featured Linkous on guitar and vocals, Bob Bortnick on vocals and guitar, Don Short on drums, and Randy Mendicino on bass.[11] In 1984, the group released a self-titled EP; a year later, they released an album titled 12 Jealous Roses on Relativity Records, which received a number of positive reviews.[11] The Replacements and The Del Fuegos were also vocal fans of the band after the release of their first record.[11]

In 1988, the Dancing Hoods put out their sophomore album, Hallelujah Anyway, on Combat Records.[11] A single from the album, "Baby's Got Rockets", was a modest college radio hit, and its video was picked up by MTV's 120 Minutes program.[11] That same year, the group relocated to Los Angeles in hopes of achieving mainstream success, but broke up shortly after their move to the west coast.[11]


Following the breakup of the Dancing Hoods, Linkous moved back to Virginia,[6] where he continued writing songs. One of the tracks that he wrote during this period with David Lowery, "Sick of Goodbyes", was recorded by Cracker and appeared on their 1993 album Kerosene Hat. While in Virginia, he performed concerts under the monikers The Johnston Family and Salt Chunk Mary.[2] Linkous finally settled on the band name Sparklehorse, and released Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot on Capitol Records in 1995. He remained the only consistent member throughout the band's existence.

In 1996, while supporting Radiohead on the first Sparklehorse tour, Linkous overdosed on alcohol, Valium and antidepressants and possibly other substances in his London hotel room.[12] Rendered unconscious by the combination of drugs, he collapsed with his legs pinned beneath him, and remained in that position for almost fourteen hours.[13] The resulting potassium buildup caused his heart to stop for several minutes after his body was lifted up. He was treated at St Mary's Hospital, London.[6] Subsequent surgeries saved both legs but left him wheelchair-bound for six months;[13] his legs never fully regained their original strength.[6]

1999 saw the release of Good Morning Spider; some of the album's songs dealt with Linkous' accident in London and subsequent rehabilitation, namely "St. Mary".[6] In 2001, Sparklehorse released It's a Wonderful Life, which featured contributions from Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, John Parish, Nina Persson, Vic Chesnutt, and Dave Fridmann.

In 2006, Sparklehorse released Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain in September 2006. In the late 2000s, Linkous recorded an album titled Dark Night of the Soul with the producer Danger Mouse, the director David Lynch and ten other musicians. It was released on the Internet in May 2009, as was a book of photographs by David Lynch to accompany the music. Though long-delayed due to legal problems, it will be officially released in 2010.[6]

At the time of his death, his manager confirmed that Linkous "had completed most of the work for a new Sparklehorse album", was in the process of moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, and was working on setting up a studio where he planned to finish the record.[6]

Production and other work

Aside from his own music, Linkous became a sought-after record producer, and helmed works such as Nina Persson's solo record, A Camp, and Daniel Johnston's Fear Yourself. Linkous was one of the most ardent supporters of Johnston, an outsider artist who has had a long battle with mental illness. In 2004, Linkous curated and produced The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered, a tribute album to the still-living Johnston featuring acts such as Beck, Death Cab for Cutie, Vic Chesnutt, Tom Waits and Bright Eyes. It also includes a collaboration between Sparklehorse and The Flaming Lips on the track "Go".


Linkous committed suicide by shooting himself in the heart outside a friend's house in Knoxville at 1:20 pm on March 6, 2010.[3][6][14] He was 47 years old.[2] According to a spokesperson for the Police Department, the musician was staying with two friends,[15] who told authorities that he had been drinking heavily and had become upset after trading text messages with an unknown person.[14] The friends said Linkous went upstairs for a short period, then told the two that he was going for a walk and exited through a back door.[15][14] A witness saw him sit down in the alley near Irwin Street, pull out his rifle, and fire into his own chest.[15][14] Linkous was declared dead at the scene;[4] police did not find a suicide note,[14] but told the press that he was having "personal problems."[15] The musician's publicist confirmed the details of his death to a number of publications on the same day.[3][6]

Within a few hours of his death, a message attributed to the Linkous family was posted on the official Sparklehorse website: “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.” [16] A number of notable musicians and people in the music world made statements mourning the loss of Linkous, including Patti Smith,[17][18] Radiohead's Colin Greenwood,[19][18] Death Cab For Cutie's Chris Walla,[20], Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips,[21] Steve Albini,[22][18] and The Jesus Lizard's David Wm. Sims.[23]


  1. ^ Spinner article: "Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse commits suicide."
  2. ^ a b c Variety article: "Sparklehorses's Mark Linkous dies".
  3. ^ a b c LA Times article: "Mark Linkous, aka Sparklehorse, takes his own life, his family says."
  4. ^ a b E! News article: "Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous Takes His Own Life".
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Sisario, Ben (March 7, 2010). The Singer-Songwriter Known as Sparklehorse is Dead at 47. New York Times
  7. ^ Graham, James D. (28 February 2002). "Sparklehorse's one-man band owes everything to his snoozing wife". The Hook. 
  8. ^ Laurence, Alexander (6 March 2010). "Sparklehorse 2002 interview". 
  9. ^ YouTube clip: "Sparklehorse BBC Culture Show".
  10. ^ a b c d e The Hook article: "He sparkles: The sad and beautiful world of Mark Linkous."
  11. ^ a b c d e f g AllMusic page: "Dancing Hoods - biography."
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b Free Williamsburg article: "Sparklehorse: An interview with Mark Linkous."
  14. ^ a b c d e Associated Press article: "Mark Linkous, leader of Sparklehorse, dies at 47."
  15. ^ a b c d Metro Pulse article: "R.I.P. Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse."
  16. ^ Ganz, Caryn (6 March 2010). "Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous Takes Own Life". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  17. ^ Patti Smith / Souvenance: "[1]."
  18. ^ a b c NME article: "Patti Smith, Flaming Lips, Steve Albini pay tribute to Mark Linkous."
  19. ^ Radiohead / DEAD AIR SPACE page: "Mark Linkous RIP."
  20. ^ Twitter page for Chris Walla: "Rest in peace, Mark Linkous".
  21. ^ Twitter page for Steven Drozd: "Mark Linkous toured with us..."
  22. ^ Electrical Audio messageboard, post by Steve Albini: "Re: R.I.P. Mark Linkous."
  23. ^ A Blog Too Big to Fail page: "Mark Linkous, 1962-2010."

External links

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