Darkness and divorce: Sparklehorse's Linkous takes own life

cover-linkouscoverMark Linkous was the subject of a February 28, 2002 Hook cover story.

He died once 14 years ago, but this time Mark Linkous won't be coming back. The 47-year-old musician who performed under the name Sparklehorse and was known for his haunting melodies and poetic lyrics, committed suicide on Saturday, March 6 in an alley outside a friend's home in Knoxville, Tennessee by shooting himself through the heart.

"It's very distressing," says his cousin-in-law, Tracey Linkous of Charlottesville, noting that Linkous had become increasingly withdrawn from extended family over the past several years and that he was devastated over the disintegration of his marriage. Linkous' manager, Shelby Meade, confirms that the musician was in the process of divorce.

The subject of the February 28, 2002 Hook cover story, when he was living near the tiny Buckingham County town of Dillwyn, Linkous famously overdosed in London in 1996 and suffered cardiac arrest, but was revived after spending several minutes technically dead. Hospitalized for months, he regained the ability to walk with leg braces–- but more importantly, he retained his ability to sing and write songs. While his work never achieved mainstream commercial success, it inspired a cultlike following and generated gushing critical reviews.

"Songs that are as a bouquet of rotting roses, heavy American gothic masterpieces delivered so hushed you can hear a feather drop," wrote the New Musical Express.

"A homemade tour de force of psychedelic Appalachian folk slop, held together by writer-producer Linkous' ruggedly melancholic whisper of a voice," praised Rolling Stone.

Linkous, who was raised by grandparents and attended Albemarle High School, would eventually collaborate with musical giants including PJ Harvey and Tom Waits, and he toured with Radiohead and R.E.M.

His most recently completed project is Dark Night of the Soul, an album-book that combines filmmaker David Lynch's photography with songs penned by Linkous and Danger Mouse, the force behind Gnarls Barkley. Despite performances by music greats including Iggy Pop and the late Vic Chesnutt (whose Christmas Day 2009 fatal overdose is widely believed to have been suicide), the album has yet to be released due to a legal dispute.

The lyric of one of Linkous' most recent songs, "Revenge," penned with Danger Mouse and performed by Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, offers an eerie premonition of the way Linkous chose to die.

"...in my mind ”ši have shot you and stabbed you through your heart," he wrote. "”ši just didn't understand ”šthe ricochet is the second part..."

Indeed, as news of Linkous' death ricochets around the music world, those who loved his music may be understanding what he meant.


kai per - pay a little more attention, the cover story was from 2002.

people have been taking their own lives since people were around.

if you look around and see a "sick, dark age culture," maybe you should get outside more.

When me and my wife separated through divorce, we had no choice but to settle arrangements when it comes to co-parenting. We have 2 young kids and we don't want them to suffer just because we needed to part ways. So me and my ex-wife are working hand in hand to take care of the kids. My wife also bought co-parenting planner/organizer from http://4help.to/parenting which really is of big help in this process. Hopefully we'll get things flowing smoothly as planned. Thanks for sharing this! :)

Robert, the website you recommended is really helpful. I ordered a planner at http://4help.to/kids which I might get in the mail next week! I am excited to use it. Thanks! Good luck to you.

The saddest thing of all is that people don't understand the biology of depression. An imbalance between the two major neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, plays a direct role in suicide. Most psychiatrists just prescribe drugs that increase the level of serotonin in the brain, but you can just as easily have too much serotonin, and need more dopamine instead. A good naturopath could have sorted this guy out easily, and he would have moved on from his ex and found someone worth his time. We're born to live, suicide is an obvious biological malfunction. All the other sentiments about culture, politics, doomsday, etc are abstract ideas; but the biology of depression and suicide is concrete and easily determined by the right lab work.

I'm over feeling badly for critically and financially successful artists that do themselves in. I do feel for their families and their friends.

Mark, like Elliot Smith, wouldn't get over himself. Too bad, next life.

I am sticking to my claim and further clarify that at the heart of it, there is an unbearable ugliness in the present American condition:


Christopher Hedges is another who explains the problem.

To put it another way, we need more than cover stories about those who can explain the problem and work to do something about it - against all odds. Instead, the Hook, true to its intent, commits good journalism to playing in the sandbox with comfortable distractions, while America is shredded and transformed. Why not interview Barbara Ehrenreich about what she thinks about Cville after leaving and living elsewhere? Or have a series of cover devoted to iconoclasts who are given a chance to remake our fair city in speech, and remake Charlottesville. What we need is the ability to dream again.

The story is local news due to Linkous' ties to C2,(3*" Virginia , kai per. From what I'm able to discern, this remarkably in-depth article appeared online here in very short order after a generic account made the wire service today. And, as already stated in the piece itself and noted by another comment, the cover story is from 2002. Go grind your axe somewhere else.

Brilliant brilliant man, a tragic loss for music. "...And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

My condolences to his friends and family. Suicide, the ultimate act of the self centered, is devastating to those left behind.

Suicide the ultimate act of a sick heart and loss of control. May we have compassion, both for this lost soul, and his family.

for those of you who say suicide is the ultimate selfish act, you just don't know squat. people who consider or commit suicide are in more pain than you can imagine and believe people would be better off without them. they need our compassion and help, not flippant criticism.

He was a beautiful, brilliant man, a musical genius, poet and gentle soul. Desperately sad to hear that he is gone, been heartbroken since I first heard. And also to hear this sad information about his divorce, it is painful to think of all that he must have been going through. Rest in peace, dear Mark. I wish that someone could've helped you.

Suicide is not selfish or any of the other absurd things folks have written here. It is the result of living with unbearable pain...major depression like that is a physical and excrutiating ailment. It hurts in ways most folks cannot understand.

I am very sorry that Mark was not able to find the right help for his illness in time. For those of you suffering with similar problems, the right medication CAN restore you to your healthy self...it does take time & sometimes you need to try several medications to find the right one or right combination.

You must be braver than you think you can be and, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, "You must do the thing you think you cannot do," which in this case is keep living through the pain and keep trying to find the right treatment.

Rest in Peace, Mark. Your music was, like this world, sad and beautiful.

This is a symptom of our sick, dark age culture. The Hook contributes to it by plastering him on the cover. Why not instead feature a series of covers & stories on hopeful, inspiring human beings? In the meantime, the drumroll continues for the death of optimism, forward-looking, promethean America.

Never heard of this guy, but he seemed very troubled.

Haunting voices often connect on a deeper level than the loud boisterous rah rah culture that surrounds us. I hope now, those involved in the legal dispute, will put their differences aside and release his last album; as a tribute to a profound and often misunderstood talent.

If you've never heard of him, it's your loss "Wedding Photographers." People will still be discovering his music decades from now.

Gone to be with Breece--now the world will come to know what they have missed. Great 2002 cover story; captures the essence of a remarkable human being. May his family and friends be comforted.

from the cover story

"He also professes an avid appreciation of Breece D'J Pancake, a prolific creative writing student at UVA in the late seventies who left behind just one book of short stories. Pancake shot himself under a fruit tree in 1979. Even if Linkous' lyric "Give all your leaves/ to the ghosts in the trees/ to sink or to shine," doesn't make it obvious, Pancake's spirit inhabits this and many other songs."

http://www.metanoia.org/suicide/ In case someone with suicidal thoughts is reading these ignorant and harsh comments on those who kill themselves, please go read the above link--If you are thinking about suicide, read this first. To those with the harsh comments on suicidal despair, may G-d forgive you.

Over It, you're extremely ignorant. Financially successful? You obviously know NOTHING about the current music business.

Rest in peace, Mark. Your first two albums were brilliant.

I will speak for him. Something is deeply wrong and I think that we should think about that. Cover stories about tragic women murdered at rock concerts, self-destructive cop car joyriders, and all that goes into our collaboration with a System on a deathspiral.

I am simply suggesting a reversal toward renaissance orientation. More than comfort for those who reject consumer zombie status toward a total "terrapin station" world-respecting, step back and pause for the future dream of a calmly induced swords beaten into plowshares kind of poplar shareworld for-us and all...

kai per: Shut up already. One of the signs of the end is inappropriate doomsday blabbing by the unqualified.

Mark Linkous obviously had his issues; who doesn't? And he made some very wonderful music that was much appreciated in Europe than here in the US. I'm sorry he's gone, and wish that the joy he brought to others comes back to him in the next plane.

kai per, your words are strangely familiar. Am I right in guessing that you used to live in C'ville but moved north?

kai per, please, if you think cover stories need to have a different POV, then please take it up with the reporters/magazines themselves. You are being completely disrespectful of the situation. There are people and family members that are devastated about Mark Linkous' death. Didn't your parents teach you any manners? Would you get up at a funeral service denouncing the manner in which the person died? I should hope not.

Either pay your respects or shut up.

May he rest in peace. May his family and friends find solace.

Might that the morbid lyrics of "Revenge" be rewritten in all of our hearts and given a happy turn in lives affected hereby, and lives we touch thereafter. Please consider this an apology for any offense rendered.