On Monday, February 25, 2019, Rumblings on the internet bore the news that Talk Talk vocalist Mark David Hollis had passed away. Within hours, social media was full of condolences and other homages to the family and friends of Hollis, with his Talk Talk bandmate Paul Webb confirming the sad news to be true.
While news of Hollis passing seems to come from nowhere, this can’t come as much of a surprise given how Hollis pretty much disappeared from the music industry (and from public view) twenty years ago after quietly releasing a 1998 solo album (and not touring it). Throughout five albums in nine years -- The Party's Over (1982), It's My Life (1984), The Colour of Spring (1986), Spirit of Eden (1988), and Laughing Stock (1991) -- Talk Talk easily boasted some of the best anthems of the 1980’s. Mark Hollis’ vocals are often cited by singers the world over as being beyond replication.
If you don’t already know it, here’s Talk Talk’s classic track “Life’s What You Make It.”
Even back in 1986, Hollis pulled back from touring to be around his family. His withdrawal from the public has continued to fascinate music critics for decades. The 1988 album Spirit of Eden is often cited as being one of the best Talk Talk albums, with some musicians citing it as their favourite album ever.
Talk Talk’s bassist Mark Webb, aka Rustin Man, paid tribute to Hollis on Instagram: “I am very shocked and saddened to hear the news of the passing of Mark Hollis. Musically he was a genius, and it was an honor 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.”
Born in Tottenham, London on January 4th, 1955, Hollis was 64 when he passed away, leaving behind a wife, two children, and a legacy most can only dream of. The musician’s work (he was an adept vocalist, guitarist and pianist) touched fans of genres as diverse as new wave, synthpop, art rock, post-rock, folk, jazz, and ambient. Hollis’ emotional vocals have been described as haunting and impassioned. Now, in the wake of his untimely death, we are left behind with a body of work that can be described with the same two words.
Here’s the all-too-coincidentally title track, “Such A Shame.”