The Moments That Made Mark Lanegan

Remembering the grunge pioneer in the projects, collaborations and moments that helped him shape an entire genre

There’s a special kind of heartbreak in the death of Mark Lanegan. It’s not just that he was a gifted and enigmatic musician and writer, but more his constant proximity to tragedy and seeming ability to survive the unsurvivable.

So many of his contemporaries and close friends died young, including Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, Layne Staley and Anthony Bourdain. And along with the spectre of addiction, Lanegan also endured a terrifying bout with Covid, which he wrote about in his book Devil In A Coma.

To mark the sad passing of Mark Lanegan at the age of 57, here are our favourite highlights from his remarkable career.

Screaming TreesDust

Screaming Trees were unlike any other grunge band, a fact never clearer than on ‘Sworn & Broken’, a highlight from their final album Dust. Over a swirling carnival organ that feels spirited directly from Ray Manzarek’s brain, Lanegan’s growl drags itself up to a higher register with tremendous effect. It’s the total antithesis to grunge’s trademark murk and one of the finest songs of an entire era.

His feud with Liam Gallagher

Liam‘s feuds aren’t news in themselves, but there was something deeply funny about the animosity between him and Lanegan. When Oasis toured with Screaming Trees in 1996, Dark Mark was dismissive of Gallagher’s hard man stance and infuriated by Liam’s insistence on calling his band “Howling Branches”. He swore he was going to take matters into his own hands when the bands got to Miami, only for Liam to quit Oasis in the interim. Eventually, Lanegan softened on his old nemesis, affectionately calling him an “eccentric old uncle” in an interview with PA.

That time he played Letterman with a black eye

The Trees were in town to play ‘Nearly Lost You’ (from the Singles soundtrack) on Letterman but got into it with ten local toughs outside the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. Their assailants hadn’t counted on exactly how hard Lanegan and the band were, and the fight was finally broken up by bouncers, but not before Lanegan was given a shiner. Drummer Barrett Martin ended up with his arm in a sling, which is why he’s replaced in the video below by future Tom Petty drummer Steve Ferrone.

Screaming Trees - Nearly Lost You (Live Letterman 1992)

A brief Mad Season

Lanegan was initially just on the periphery of the Seattle supergroup, founded by Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, bassist John Baker Saunders, Alice In Chains’ Layne Staley and Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin. Addiction was at the heart of the band; McCready and Baker Saunders met in rehab and enlisted Staley as a means to try and keep him sober. When Staley left, Lanegan was drafted in to replace him and recorded four songs for the band’s abandoned second album. Those songs were added to the deluxe version of Above and it’s hard not to wish for an entire album of them.

Queens Of The Stone Age

Those who knew Lanegan’s voice knew exactly how to get the most out of it. Josh Homme is definitely on that list, first enlisting Lanegan to sing on Queens Of The Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf. His soulful vocals on ‘In The Fade’ make it sound unlike anything else on Rated R. His presence was even greater on Songs For The Deaf, taking more leads and adding so much background grit to the band’s huge hit ‘No One Knows’.

Collaborations with Isobel Campbell

The frontman of Screaming Trees and an ex-member of Belle & Sebastian are an odd pairing on paper, but Lanegan’s three albums with Isobel Campbell contained some of his best work. From the very first song on their very first album together, the genius in the partnership was evident. Lanegan’s voice sounds deeper and rougher than ever when paired with Campbell’s purest tones. Their three albums are an affogato made with the finest gelato and a shot of jet-black coffee.

Down in the Gutter with Greg

Dark Mark found both his polar opposite and kindred spirit in Greg Dulli, the debonair frontman of Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers. Lanegan guested on two Twilight Singers records and the two embarked on a short-lived venture together, naming themselves after Mick and Keith’s alter ego The Glimmer Twins. They released just one album and one EP: 2008’s Saturnalia and Adorata. The stand-out is Saturnalia‘s closing track, ‘Front Street’, a brooding, menacing song that sees Lanegan morph into a demon, croaking bad ideas into Dulli’s ear.


The electronic duo Soulsavers struck the motherload when they decided to team up with Lanegan. Could anyone else have taken a song like ‘The Ghost Of You & Me’ and made it sound so dangerous? Every syllable sounds like it’s being sung by a lunatic holding a knife to your ribs. You probably never knew you needed to hear Lanegan singing a cover of Gene Clark’s ‘Some Misunderstanding’, but you definitely do.

Soulsavers - "No Expectations"

His friendship with Anthony Bourdain

Not to fall into the trap of romanticising troubled souls, but it’s unsurprising that Bourdain and Lanegan were such close friends. Both were outsiders that didn’t even seem to fit into fields full of outsiders. Bourdain found direction through his writing (his memoir Kitchen Confidential is an essential read) and encouraged Lanegan to do the same, resulting in the incredible Sing Backwards And Weep. Only Lanegan could have written The Observer’s obit for his friend, following his death by suicide in 2018. “We need more people like Tony,” he wrote, with heart-breaking simplicity. “He made the world a better place.”

Anthony Bourdain & Mark Lanegan sharing a meal and Strange Religion (RIP)

His writing

I interviewed Lanegan once and he was a man of very few words. But he knows how to choose the ones he does say. He published three books in his lifetime, one set of lyrics and his notes on them, one autobiography, and one account of his nightmarish encounter with Covid. The latter is a fever dream that even Clive Barker would struggle to imagine, a brutal episode that turned Lanegan from a sceptic to determinedly pro-vaccine. His autobiography, Sing Backwards And Weep, is the masterpiece among them, chronicling his descent into the worst places anyone could have the misfortune to go and the agonising climb back out. I’m not sure if I could read it now.