Update: a comment by Alan Wilder was added.
Mark Hollis, frontman of the band Talk Talk, has died at the age of 64. It was his cousin-in-law Anthony Costello who tweeted the bad news yesterday evening saying: “RIP Mark Hollis. Cousin-in-law. Wonderful husband and father. Fascinating and principled man. Retired from the music business 20 years ago but an indefinable musical icon.”
RIP Mark Hollis. Cousin-in-law. Wonderful husband and father. Fascinating and principled man. Retired from the music business 20 years ago but an indefinable musical icon.
Talk Talk – It’s My Life (Live at Montreux 1986) https://t.co/eGRfLWHt6r— Anthony Costello (@globalhlthtwit) February 25, 2019
Mark Webb, Talk Talk’s bassist, also posted an update on Instagram saying: “I am very shocked and saddened to hear the news of the passing of Mark Hollis. Musically he was a genius and it was a honour and a privilege to have been in a band with him. I have not seen Mark for many years, but like many musicians of our generation I have been profoundly influenced by his trailblazing musical ideas.”
In a comment, Alan Wilder (Depeche Mode, Recoil) says: “As someone commented yesterday (which summed up my feeling too): “Funny how things affect you. It makes no difference functionally since Mark Hollis disappeared from public life in 1998, and I certainly never knew him personally, but I’m heartbroken.” I think the most likely reason he stopped producing music altogether is because he became paralysed by the conundrum of trying to create absolute perfection, which is of course unobtainable. It is the most worthy of dilemmas – noble but ultimately negative. He was an exceptional and unique talent – the later key Talk Talk albums leave a legacy to be proud of. ”
Career with Talk Talk and solo album
Mark David Hollis 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 “Such a Shame”, “It’s My Life” and “Life’s What You Make It”.
The band was formed in 1981 as a synth-pop group with a New Romantic image. For their third album, “The Colour of Spring” (1986), Talk Talk adopted an art pop sound. 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.
Talk Talk disbanded in 1992, after which 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.
Sporadic signs of life
He occasionally re-surfaced musically. He for instance played the solo track “Piano” from the 1998 minimalist album “AV 1”, by Phill Brown and Dave Allinson, under the pseudonym John Cope, which was later included on the 2001 Talk Talk compilation album “Missing Pieces”. Hollis also played piano on and co-wrote the track “Chaos” on the 1998 trip hop album “Psyence Fiction” by Unkle. He however later asked for his name to be removed from the album credits. Hollis also produced and arranged two tracks (“The Gown” and “Big Mouth”) on Anja Garbarek’s 2001 album “Smiling & Waving”. His last known music was created for the TV drama “Boss” starring Kelsey Grammer and TI.
As of 1998, Hollis lived in Wimbledon, London with his wife, a teacher, and his two children.