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Mark Linkous /ˈlɪŋkəs/ (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, Black Francis, Julian Casablancas, Nina Persson, David Lynch, Fennesz, Danger Mouse, and Sage Francis.[1]

Mark Linkous
Background information
Birth nameFrederick Mark Linkous
BornSeptember 9, 1962
Arlington, Virginia
DiedMarch 6, 2010 (aged 47)
Knoxville, Tennessee
GenresLo-fi, indie rock, alt-country, bluegrass, folk, psychedelic, southern gothic
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter, record producer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, piano, keyboards, bass guitar, drums, percussion
Years active1985–2010
LabelsCapitol/EMI, Astralwerks/Caroline/Virgin/EMI, Konkurrent, Combat, Relativity, Anti-/Epitaph
Associated actsDancing Hoods, Salt Chunk Mary, Tom Waits, Daniel Johnston, PJ Harvey, Fennesz, Danger Mouse, House of Freaks, Sparklehorse

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 of achieving 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 created a project named Sparklehorse, of which he would remain the only permanent member. The band released a quartet of critically acclaimed albums on Capitol Records: Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot, Good Morning Spider, It's a Wonderful Life, and on Astralwerks records: 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 lifeEdit

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 consuming marijuana heavily.[10]

Dancing HoodsEdit

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 Eric Williams 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, Dancing Hoods put out their second 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.[11]

Salt Chunk MaryEdit

Following the breakup of Dancing Hoods, Linkous moved back to Virginia. It was here, before Linkous started the Sparklehorse project, that he had another band consisting of Frederick Mark Linkous, Matt Linkous, Chip Jones, and Steve Schick. Formed in late 1989 as The Johnson Family, they soon became Salt Chunk Mary (with both names being after characters in the Jack Black memoir 'You Can't Win'.) Demos were circulated, but no official releases were made. By 1995 Mark Linkous would go on to form solo-project Sparklehorse, taking a couple of Salt Chunk Mary songs with him, and Matt Linkous would later go on to form The Rabbit with Melissa Moore. You can find the only existing album from this band Here


Following the breakup of 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 Johnson Family (with members of Richmond punk legends Honor Role) 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] He was treated at St Mary's Hospital, London.[6] Subsequent surgeries saved both legs, but he required the use of a wheelchair for six months.[13] His legs never fully regained their original strength.[3]

1998 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 2003, Sparklehorse's song Sea of Teeth was featured on the All the Real Girls Soundtrack, a film starring Zooey Deschanel and directed by David Gordon Green.

In September 2006, Sparklehorse released Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain.

In 2009 Linkous teamed up with electronic ambient artist Christian Fennesz to create In the Fishtank 15, an experimental EP. The last four live shows Linkous did together with Fennesz were during a European tour which was held in October 2009.

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 workEdit

Aside from his own music, Linkous became a sought-after record producer, and helmed works such as Nina Persson's solo record, A Camp, Azure Ray (feat. Sparklehorse) Silverlake (demo) which was the first recording done by Azure Ray after their 6 year hiatus that ended in 2009 when it was recorded and was later rerecorded and published by Saddle Creek Records after Linkous's death along with the demo he created, 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 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". He provided music for Indie Rapper Sage Francis on his album Li(f)e on the song "Love The Lie". The album and song were released after Linkous' death.


In March 2010, Linkous was in the process of moving into a spare bedroom in the Knoxville home of bandmate Scott Minor; Linkous was apparently in the process of breaking up with his wife of 19 years, Teresa.[14][15] Linkous battled depression for many years, and was greatly shaken by the December 2009 suicide of close friend Vic Chesnutt.[14]

In the early afternoon of March 6, 2010, Linkous was drinking Kentucky bourbon with Minor and friend DeWitt Burton at their home.[14] After receiving a number of text messages on his BlackBerry that left him distraught, he told Minor and Burton, "It's not good."[14] Linkous quietly retrieved his ITM Arms rifle from an upstairs room, then told his two friends that he was going for a walk and exited through a back door.[14][16][15] At about 1:15pm, a witness saw him sit down in the alley near Irwin Street, aim the rifle at his own heart, and pull the trigger.[14][16][15] Linkous was declared dead at the scene; he was 47 years old.[4][3][6][16][2]

Police did not find a suicide note.[16][15] The musician's publicist confirmed the details of his death to a number of publications on the same day.[3][6] According to his toxicology report, his blood alcohol content was 0.43 at the time of his death; benzodiazepines and antidepressants were also found in his system.[14]

Teresa Linkous died six years later, on March 5, 2016, from an acute asthma attack.[17]


Within a few hours of his death, a message attributed to the Linkous family was posted on the official Sparklehorse Web site: "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." [18] A number of notable musicians and people in the music world made statements mourning the loss of Linkous, including Patti Smith,[19][20] Radiohead's Colin Greenwood,[20][21] Silversun Pickups' Brian Aubert,[22] Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla,[23] Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips,[24] Steve Albini,[20][25] Gemma Hayes,[26] and the Jesus Lizard's David Wm. Sims.[27]

Emily Haines of Metric also wrote a eulogy entitled The Rings of Saturn on Your Fingers.[28]

Dark Night of the SoulEdit

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 was officially released in 2010[6] several months after Linkous's death. The album features several guest singers and writers, such as The Flaming Lips and Iggy Pop. Vic Chesnutt, another guest on the album, committed suicide just a few months before Linkous. Because of this, the album is dedicated "in memory of Mark Linkous and Vic Chesnutt".


  1. ^ Spinner article: "Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse commits suicide."
  2. ^ a b c Variety article: "Sparklehorses's Mark Linkous dies".
  3. ^ a b c d 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. ^ "FREDERICK LINKOUS Obituary: View FREDERICK LINKOUS's Obituary by Richmond Times-Dispatch". Retrieved 2010-05-01.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j 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. Archived from the original on 6 December 2007.
  8. ^ Laurence, Alexander (6 March 2010). "Sparklehorse 2002 interview". The Portable Infinite.
  9. ^ "Sparklehorse BBC Culture Show" on YouTube.
  10. ^ a b c d e The Hook article: "He sparkles: The sad and beautiful world of Mark Linkous Archived 2007-12-06 at the Wayback Machine."
  11. ^ a b c d e f g AllMusic page: "Dancing Hoods - biography."
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-10-31. Retrieved 2006-10-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ a b Free Williamsburg article: "Sparklehorse: An interview with Mark Linkous."
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Pitchfork Media article: "The Sad and Beautiful World of Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous"
  15. ^ a b c d Metro Pulse article: "R.I.P. Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse.
  16. ^ a b c d Associated Press article: "Mark Linkous, leader of Sparklehorse, dies at 47."
  17. ^ "LINKOUS, TERESA ANN". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  18. ^ Ganz, Caryn (6 March 2010). "Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous Takes Own Life". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  19. ^ " souvenance". Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  20. ^ a b c NME article: "Patti Smith, Flaming Lips, Steve Albini pay tribute to Mark Linkous."
  21. ^ Radiohead / DEAD AIR SPACE page: "Mark Linkous RIP Archived 2010-03-09 at the Wayback Machine."
  22. ^ "Remembering Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  23. ^ Twitter page for Chris Walla: "Rest in peace, Mark Linkous".
  24. ^ Twitter page for Steven Drozd: "Mark Linkous toured with us..."
  25. ^ Electrical Audio messageboard, post by Steve Albini: "Re: R.I.P., Mark Linkous."
  26. ^ "Gemma Hayes". Gemma Hayes. Archived from the original on 2012-03-04. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
  27. ^ The Jesus Lizard's David Wm. Sims' blog: "Mark Linkous, 1962–2010."
  28. ^ Blanche, Cate (2010-03-19). "The Rings of Saturn on Your Fingers: Metric's Emily Haines on Mark Linkous / In Depth // Drowned In Sound". Retrieved 2013-04-01.

External linksEdit