New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
Mark Hollis, lead singer of 1980s band Talk Talk, has died at the age of 64, his former manager has confirmed.
"Sadly it's true," Keith Aspden said. "Mark has died after a short illness from which he never recovered.
I can't tell you how much Mark influenced and changed my perceptions on art and music. I'm grateful for the time I spent with him and for the gentle beauty he shared with us."
Hollis (4 January 1955 - February 2019) was an English musician and singer-songwriter. He achieved commercial success and critical acclaim in the 1980s and 1990s as the co-founder, lead singer and principal songwriter of the band Talk Talk. Hollis wrote or co-wrote most of Talk Talk's music, including hits like "It's My Life
" and "Life's What You Make It
Beginning in 1981 as a synth-pop group with a New Romantic image, Talk Talk's sound became increasingly adventurous under Hollis's direction. For their third album, The Colour of Spring
(1986), Talk Talk
adopted an art pop sound that won critical and commercial favour; it remains their biggest commercial success. The band's final two albums, Spirit
of Eden (1988) and Laughing Stock (1991), were radical departures from their early work, taking influence from jazz, folk, classical and experimental music. While they were commercial failures in their own time, these albums have come to be seen as early landmarks of post-rock music.
After Talk Talk
disbanded in 1992, Hollis returned to music in 1998 with a self-titled solo album, which continued the direction of Talk Talk's sound but in a more minimal, spare, acoustic style. Following the release of his only solo album, Hollis largely retired from the recording industry.
On 25 February 2019, reports emerged online that Hollis had died, with posts from his family, collaborators and musical contemporaries acknowledging the death and offering condolences and tributes. Hollis's cause of death, date of death, and other circumstances are not yet known.
Hollis was born on 4 January 1955 in Tottenham, London. He had two brothers, one older and one younger. As Hollis was a reluctant interviewee throughout his career, little is known about his early life. He attended Tollington School, a now-defunct grammar school in Muswell Hill, London. In one interview, he claimed to have quit pursuing an education before he had completed his A-levels; in another, he said he had taken a course in child psychology at the University of Sussex but dropped out after a year and a half. Between school and the launch of his music career, he worked in factories and as a laboratory technician. Reflecting on this period in his life, he later said, "I could never wait to get home and start writing songs and lyrics. All day long I'd be jotting ideas down on bits of paper and just waiting for the moment when I could put it all down on tape!"
His older brother, Ed Hollis, became a disc jockey and producer who managed bands such as Eddie and the Hot Rods.
His music career started to come to fruition when he formed a band, The Reaction. In 1977, The Reaction recorded a demo for Island Records; among the tracks was a Hollis original titled "Talk Talk Talk
Talk" which later surfaced on the Beggars Banquet Records punk compilation Streets. After just one single, 1978's "I Can't Resist", The Reaction disbanded. Through his brother, Hollis was introduced to musicians Paul Webb, Lee Harris and Simon
Brenner, with whom he formed Talk Talk
in 1981, soon signing to the EMI label.
Hollis is best known as the lead singer and primary songwriter of the band Talk Talk
between 1981 and 1991. He was praised for his "always remarkable voice" and, along with Talk Talk's producer Tim Friese-Greene, took the lead in evolving the band's style from New Romantic into the more experimental and contemplative style that later became known as post-rock. Hollis has been credited with saying: "Before you play two notes, learn how to play one note. And don't play one note unless you've got a reason to play it."
Talk Talk disbanded in 1991. In 1998, Hollis released an eponymous solo debut album, Mark Hollis, and then, according to a 2008 article in The Guardian, retired from music. However, he briefly participated in occasional musical projects, including playing melodica and bass guitar on Anja Garbarek's 2001 album Smiling & Waving, as well as producing two tracks on it. He stated about his decision to retire from performing, "I choose for my family. Maybe others are capable of doing it, but I can't go on tour and be a good dad at the same time." Despite Hollis' absence from the public eye, he continued to be mentioned in the music press as an example of an artist who refused to sacrifice his artistic ambition for commercial success and as a yardstick for current artists.
In 2004, Hollis resurfaced briefly to receive a Broadcast Music
Inc. Award for having written "It's My Life
". His withdrawal from the public continued to fascinate music critics. By the time his solo album was released Hollis had moved back from the countryside to London, to provide his two sons with a more cosmopolitan environment.
In 2012, a piece of specially commissioned music by Hollis entitled "ARB Section 1", was used in the television series Boss.
Hollis performed the solo track "Piano
" on the 1998 minimalist album AV 1, by Phill Brown and Dave Allinson, under the pseudonym John Cope. This was later included on the 2001 Talk Talk
compilation album Missing Pieces. He played piano on and co-wrote the track "Chaos
" on the 1998 trip hop album Psyence Fiction by Unkle, later asking for his name to be removed from the album credits. He also produced and arranged two tracks ("The Gown" and "Big Mouth") on Anja Garbarek's 2001 album Smiling & Waving.
As of 1998, Hollis lived in Wimbledon, London with his wife (a teacher) and his two children. Hollis's desire to spend more time with his family was a major reason that Talk Talk
stopped touring after 1986.
It was reported on 25 February 2019, and confirmed the next day by his manager, that Mark Hollis had died after a short illness, aged 64. Initial reports included a tweet from his cousin-in-law, the paediatrician Anthony Costello, and a tribute by Talk Talk's bassist Paul Webb. Tributes to Hollis included Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, The The, Wendy Smith, Tim Burgess, Dave Rowntree, Doves, Guy Garvey, Ed Simons, Elijah Wood, Chris Baio, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Broken Social Scene.
1982 - The Party's Over
1984 - It's My Life
1986 - The Colour of Spring
1988 - Spirit
1991 - Laughing Stock
1998 - Mark Hollis