Music has been all around me for so long that it seems as ever-present as the air I breathe. Playing it, listening to it, talking about it, thinking about it. My own personal soundtrack continues to accompany my triumphs, joys, laughter, losses, pain and hope.
Basically, all the things that make me human.
There are some musicians playing on the soundtrack of my life who find a way to put words and sounds together in such a way that I am permanently moved and changed forever. They affect me so personally, and so deeply, that the intimacy of their music to my ears makes me feel like we are old friends. We are as thick as thieves. We hold a secret bond that only we know about.
Some may point out that the musician in this scenario has no clue what my name is and couldn’t pick my mug out of a lineup of other strangers. That’s certainly true, but I'd bet my bottom dollar they know who I am. They know my heart. They know what strings to play (and pull). They know what to say, and how to say it. They know how to reach me. Awareness of my actual life simply doesn't matter. I am thankful for these friendships. They have all contributed on my journey.
I think you should know about my friend Mark Linkous. A beautiful soul that has contributed his music to my soundtrack on countless occasions. I'm sure he'll be playing during many more moments as my life goes on. Knock on wood.
I won't dive into his biography. Facts are for the rest of the internet. However, I encourage you to learn about Mark here, and to follow all the links on that Wiki page to learn about his projects, his music, and his life. You won’t be sorry. In this writing I want to focus on how Mark makes me feel and why he's my friend. That’s what matters to me, and then maybe he can become your friend too.
I came across Mark somewhere in the early 2000’s. There was no slip of an old cassette from a bar buddy. No big talk about who he was etc. No insight to direct me. I simply saw the name of a band listed on the internet as ‘Sparklehorse’ and wondered what the hell kind of sound would (or could) come with it. Mark had several records out by then with various projects but had come to indie prominence through his main outlet Sparklehorse. So, I clicked and listened to some of his music. Then, just like with anything that we automatically decide we love, I dove deep. And I have yet to surface.
My friend’s music has always found a way to reflect and describe melancholy and loneliness in a way that resonates with me like nothing else I have ever heard. There is a vastness to it...a perpetual sense of mourning combined with a hollow, canyon-like emptiness that punches me in the stomach with its raw beauty, but also finds a way to comfort me in the same moment. Maybe it's simply because it feels good that Mark puts our shared feelings into songs that help me navigate my own emotions. Maybe it's just the gentle reminder that all humans feel those things sometimes - so in that sense we don’t need to feel so alone. His music reminds me to use those quiet times for introspection. To think about what matters most to me. To really think about life in a way that requires an honest acknowledgement of the emotions that play into decisions I make and the anxieties that can lord over some of the steps I take.
"Can you feel the rings of Saturn on your finger?
Can you taste the ghosts who shed their creaking hosts?
But seas forever boil, trees will turn to soil."
-Mark Linkous, ‘Sea of Teeth’
Mark’s very original (weird-in-the-best-way) use of imagery through his lyrics has always fascinated me. At first glance it would be easy to pass his words off as nonsense or maybe even a little unhinged. If that was the case, you would be doing yourself a grave disservice. If you hear him sing these words over the music he creates, a slow burn takes place that results in a deeper understanding and appreciation.
It's a gift. A very beautiful and a very rare gift.
Some artists are born with the proverbial spout that cannot be turned off and therefore their art simply flows. They share with the world because they must. It is how they are made. That was my friend. That was Mark Linkous.
Gentle. Roaring. Ambient, Chaotic. Funny. Weird. Heartbreaking. Irreplaceable. Real.
I hope your curiosity is piqued enough to listen to his music. Mark left us way too soon and the most selfish part of me still can’t believe I’ll never hear a new song from him. How can I have taken so much from my friend and still want more? Probably a sign that I have more to learn. Hopefully as my soundtrack plays on Mark will help guide me and teach me to understand life that much more.
Thank you for being my friend, Mark. I miss you and I still think about you a lot.
The Old Man at Trusty Spot -xo