Mimi Parker obituary

Mimi Parker, of the American various rock group Low, who has died aged 55 of ovarian most cancers, had a voice famend for its quiet, eerie depth. Typically blended in beautiful harmonies together with her bandmate and husband Alan Sparhawk, and enhanced by her delicate brushwork on the drums, her voice had an affect on the listener that was typically chilling, typically heavenly, at all times mesmerising.

On tracks corresponding to In Metal, the place the couple harmonised to a “diploma of claustrophobic perfection”, in line with a Guardian evaluate of the 2001 album Issues We Misplaced within the Hearth, and Monkey, from The Nice Destroyer (2005), later covered by Robert Plant, it was typically as in the event that they have been sharing the identical breath, rounding off consonants with the identical management and measure.

Whereas naturally shy and introverted, Parker started to emerge from behind Sparhawk’s extra extroverted determine over Low’s 30-year recording historical past and tackle lead vocals extra. She did this whereas nonetheless enjoying her easy drum equipment of snare, cymbal and ground tom, standing upright, all brown curls and dishevelled jumper, in the midst of the stage.

Just a few of her lead tracks confirmed how highly effective she may very well be as a solo singer. In Holy Ghost from The Invisible Method (2013), a track later covered by Mavis Staples, a mild vibrato bolsters her wealthy, lovely supply as she sings in regards to the unusual pull of religion in a fragile world. On the identical album, her voice is filled with rhythm and power on Just Make It Stop. Her voice had the comfortable however pressing lilt of a rustic singer, stuffed with each conviction and luxury.

Whereas Low by no means had any mainstream breakthrough hits, that they had an enormous following, together with within the UK, and lots of movie star followers. First listening to the band whispering out of the radio when he lived within the US, Plant cherished “the best way Mimi Parker hangs on each vocal line after she’s completed – it was so horny and so darkish”. In 2017, when requested which 18 of his recordings summed up his profession, together with his time in Led Zeppelin, Plant picked two Low songs he had coated: Monkey and Silver Rider.

Parker, left, and her husband, Alan Sparhawk, right, with the Low bassist Matt Livingston in the couple’s basement in Duluth in 2007.
Parker, left, and her husband, Alan Sparhawk, proper, with the Low bassist Matt Livingston within the couple’s basement in Duluth in 2007. {Photograph}: Jim Mone/AP

Parker herself heard her band, which additionally included a bassist, initially John Nichols (one other 5 would observe), on native radio for the primary time in dramatic circumstances. The track, the lead monitor off their 1994 debut album, I May Stay in Hope, was Words, a couple of drained man encountering somebody desirous to burn his soul. It was performed straight after the announcement of the dying of Kurt Cobain.

Following on from the grunge motion, Low – who have been later signed to Sub Pop, the identical label as Cobain’s band, Nirvana, who have been synonymous with grunge – grew to become considered one of a slew of American various bands who took the style down a distinct path, exploring atmospheric textures of their music. Parker and Sparhawk themselves appreciated to take heed to bands with a extra minimal method to creating music, such because the Velvet Underground and Pleasure Division. (They coated the latter on their 1996 EP, Transmission.)

Low’s 1995 LP, Lengthy Division, included the one Shame, on which Parker sang lead for the primary time. Picked up by the MTV actuality present The Actual World: San Francisco, it soundtracked the story of a homosexual man residing with HIV. Parker advised the Guardian in 2018 that it “grew to become form of a homosexual … I received’t say anthem. However a whole lot of homosexual males come as much as me and speak about that track. They are saying that it actually spoke to them.”

Their fanbase broadened additional with their 1999 EP Christmas, which was picked up a 12 months later by Hole – the model used Low’s slowed-down, hymnal cowl of Little Drummer Boy on a festive advert. The catchy, Parker-led Simply Like Christmas tells us how we attempt to discover Christmas within the mistaken locations, to a jolly beat accompanied by sleigh bells. Her character finds it in Oslo, after the snow has melted: “The beds have been small, however we felt so younger/It was similar to Christmas.” She additionally coated Elvis’s Blue Christmas stunningly, “sounding like Carly Simon with a damaged coronary heart”, in line with Betty Clarke in the Guardian.

Many music festivals and worldwide excursions adopted, together with a 2003 European help slot with Radiohead. Performances within the early 2000s have been typically achieved with the couple’s youngsters, a daughter, Hollis, and son, Cyrus, in tow.

After the radio-friendly The Great Destroyer (2005), Low grew to become extra experimental, enjoying with the distortion and abstraction of sound and disproving the concept that age brings complacency. They launched 13 albums in complete, their most up-to-date, Double Unfavorable (2018) and Hey What (2021), the primary to get into the UK High 30.

Born in rural Bemidji, Minnesota, to Pleasure (nee Berg), a chef, and Robert Parker, a carpenter and mechanic, Mimi grew up on a farm together with her two elder sisters, Cindy and Wanda. She loved driving her snowmobile throughout the fields as a baby and commenced studying the drums at 11, becoming a member of her junior excessive live performance band at her faculty in Clearbrook, Minnesota, the place she later grew to become president of the college council.

She met Sparhawk after they have been each in fourth grade. “I simply bear in mind this little red-haired, freckled child coming into class,” she stated. “He was cute.” They began courting at 15 and married when Parker was 22, in 1990, following her commencement from the College of Duluth, Minnesota. The couple by no means moved away from Duluth, shopping for a home by the harbour in 1997, and have been typically seen singing at their native church. Parker and Sparhawk have been each members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Her household was musical, too. Pleasure, an accordion participant, had been an aspiring nation singer. Sparhawk would play with the household, and he began encouraging Parker to type a band with him and Nichols of their mid-20s, bringing residence a drum and cymbal that have been left behind on the Duluth Area, the place he labored as a runner.

“We knew from the start that [our band] was going to be just a little odd,” stated Parker in an interview on the American podcast Sheroes in January 2022, through which she additionally revealed that she had been recognized with most cancers. “Alan knew if we have been going to be in a band collectively it must enchantment to me, and I used to be extra introverted, just a little quiet, searching for lovely, melodic issues.”

Sparhawk stated of his spouse: “Hers was the voice of somebody who’s simply singing, not attempting to persuade you of one thing. She was not singing to you. She was not singing to be seen. Generally she didn’t even wish to be seen. She simply needed to be.”

Parker continued performing with Low till the center of this 12 months.

Alan, Hollis and Cyrus survive her, as do her mom and sisters.

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