Music is a complex and human expression of thought and emotion. It has a singular ability to move and inspire us to think and feel. When music is accompanied by lyrical content, the thoughts and emotion it fills us with can be of a very pointedly personal nature; this seems especially true of the music created by Mark Linkous. His lyrics are often surreal, but seem to tug on the subconscious in a way that suggests the imagery they invoke is strangely familiar.
Born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1962, Mark Linkous suffered from depression since childhood. That’s not to say that he wasn’t capable of joy, but there was a deep rooted sadness that lingered and intermittently overwhelmed his ability to feel happiness. Working under the name Sparklehorse, he released five albums between 1995 and 2010. In 1996 he was on tour opening for Radiohead when he accidentally overdosed after taking Valium for insomnia in combination with alcohol and prescribed medication for depression. He fell into a coma and lay crumpled on the floor of his hotel room for nearly 15 hours before rescue workers found him. As they attempted to revive him he went into cardiac arrest and was clinically dead for three minutes before he was resuscitated. This event caused his legs to atrophy and as a result he was confined to a wheelchair for a time until he was able to learn to walk with the aid of leg braces. He suffered chronic pain for years afterward, and while he had increasingly severe bouts of depression he went on to produce several more albums which were released to critical acclaim, as well as produce projects for other musicians. His musical career was spent mostly on the fringes of popular recognition, but Linkous was renown in the music world and worked with many artists of notoriety including Thom Yorke, PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, Nina Persson and The Flaming Lips.
Just before the final Sparklehorse album, a collaborative project with musician Danger Mouse and filmmaker David Lynch, was officially released, Linkous committed suicide while visiting a friend in Tennessee.
While Mark Linkous may be gone, his music and words live on and will continue to move and inspire. In fact, a personal connection to and deep love of his often fragile, sometimes gritty, and always poetic music is what inspired the founding of Box of Stars. By shining a light on Linkous’ story and music as well as the stories and music of other musicians we admire we hope to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and increase awareness of the surrounding issues.
In the months ahead we will be producing a CD in tribute to Mark Linkous. There will be some very notable bands on this CD, and all of the proceeds generated will go towards our efforts to start a new dialog about mental health. Stay tuned for news, noise and images of the progress on this project.
Is there a musician whose music or story is especially important to you or has helped you through struggles in your life?