Remembering Mark Lanegan on his birthday

Lanegan came to prominence during the 1990’s as part of the Seattle Grunge scene

Remembering Mark Lanegan on his birthday

Mark Lanegan was born Mark William Lanegan on November 25th 1964 in Ellensburg, Washington.  Legend says that Lanegan was a sports jock in High School, and after he took LSD for the first time he had a epiphany and dropped sports to focus on music only.  Mark was using drugs heavily by the age of 18, having already been arrested and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for drug-related crimes. He got out of jail by taking a year-long rehabilitation course. Around this time he met and befriended the Van Conner brothers with whom he would eventually form the Screaming Trees. At this point his relationship with the Conner brothers was limited to talking about music and working for their parents’ electronics hardware store. Along with Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and Nirvana, Screaming Trees were part of Seattle’s emerging grunge scene in the early 1990’s. The band was formed in late 1984 by Mark Lanegan, guitarist Gary Lee Conner, bassist Van Conner and Mark Pickerel who would later be replaced with Barrett Martin. Musically the band’s earliest records were a combination of psychedelic music and hard rock, while it bears many similarities to early grunge. “Sweet Oblivion” from 1992  was the band’s breakout album and included the singles “Nearly Lost You”, “Dollar Bill”, “Shadow of the Season” and “Butterfly”. The first two singles gained considerable airtime on alternative rock radio stations, while the video for “Nearly Lost You” became an MTV and alternative radio hit in the fall of 1992, thanks to the momentum of the “Singles” soundtrack. “Nearly Lost You” peaked at number 5 on the Modern Rock Tracks and number 50 in the United Kingdom and was their first single to chart outside the United States.

Although the Screaming Trees were viewed as one of the finest bands on the Seattle scene, they never drew the commercial attention that Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden had garnered. After Screaming Trees dissolved in 1996 Lanegan pursued a solo career full time, he already had released solo albums before but as side projects while being the singer for Screaming Trees. His first solo album “The Winding Sheet” was released on Sub Pop in 1990 and Lanegan had intimated that the album came around following a Leadbelly project he was working on with Mark Pickerel, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic. The project was short lived and eventually other musicians became involved in the evolution to the debut solo record. From the Leadbelly sessions a version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” appeared on “The Winding Sheet”. “Ain’t It a Shame” is available on the Nirvana box set, “With the Lights Out”. Cobain also supplied backing vocals on “Down in the Dark” on Lanegan’s debut. The second record, 1994’s “Whiskey for the Holy Ghost”, was a far more cohesive recording, with such ethereal songs as “The River Rise”, “Kingdoms of Rain”, “Riding the Nightingale” and “Beggar’s Blues”. In 1995, Lanegan appeared on the album “Above” by Mad Season. The project was fronted by friend Layne Staley (Alice in Chains) and was formed in late 1994 by Staley, Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Barrett Martin of Screaming Trees and John Baker Saunders of The Walkabouts. Lanegan appeared on “Long Gone Day” and “I’m Above”. His third album “Scraps at Midnight” was released in 1998, Lanegan developed a signature sound that bares no similarities to the Screaming Trees and collaborated with many contemporary alternative music artists such as Queens Of The Stone Age. The Screaming Trees never got together again even for a reunion and Lanegan often refused to talk about his career while as singer for the Trees. Mark Lanegan was one of the most successful Alternative Rock and Alternative music artists of the last 30 years, he gathered a strong cult follow that usually was not associated with his Grunge days fans. His last album was “Straight Songs of Sorrow.” Mark Lanegan died at age 57 at home in Ireland on February 22, 2022 after battling with COVID.

Watch the 1992 Screaming Trees music video for “Nearly Lost You”

Watch Mark Lanegan performing Live at the Main Square Festival, France 2017

Listen to a selection of Mark Lanegan and Screaming Trees songs compiled by Pop Expresso on Spotify

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