Duluth music hero Mimi Parker of rock trio Low dies of cancer at 55

Her ethereal, soothing vocals provided a soft cushion to her husband’s stormier production and the wild grungy-era noise from which their band emerged. For three decades, she steadily and humbly co-fronted one of Minnesota’s most famous rock bands of all time.

On Saturday night, Mimi Parker of the internationally acclaimed Duluth rock trio Low was silenced by cancer.

The news of her death at 55 was announced Sunday in a statement from her husband and bandmate, Alan Sparhawk, on Low’s Twitter feed.

“Friends, it’s hard to put the universe into language and a short message, but she passed away last night, surrounded by family and love, including yours,” the post office Lily. “Keep his name close and sacred. Share this moment with someone who needs you. Love is indeed the most important thing.”

Low’s drummer along with co-vocalist Parker were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December 2020.

She is survived by her daughter, Hollis, and son, Cyrus, (both college-aged), as well as her husband, whom she met in elementary school in the small northern town of Clearbrook. of Minnesota.

Observant Mormons – their faith was often reflected in song lyrics alluding to the end times, morality and redemption – the couple embarked on rock ‘n’ roll touring life shortly after moved to Duluth and formed Low in 1993 with a series of different bassists. .

They released 13 studio albums and steadily grew in stature over the years that followed. The last of these records, “Hey what,” was among several to receive critical acclaim, including a top appearance on Rolling Stone’s list of the 50 Best Albums of 2021.

“Mim was a singular and overwhelming voice [and] a beautiful, caring friend,” Trampled by Turtles frontman Dave Simonett said Sunday, using the nickname Sparhawk and his close friends had for Parker.

“She made some of the most beautiful music this world has ever known. She will be sorely missed.”

Parker mostly kept her diagnosis a secret until an interview with the syndicated public radio show “Sheroes” in 2021. Even after that interview, she refused to make her cancer treatment a talking point in news stories on Low until the band was forced to cancel tour dates in August.

Among the postponed concerts were a first US tour for Death Cab for Cutie and headlining dates in Europe. Low had a strong following across the Atlantic, which can be attributed to the early and passionate support of influential BBC DJ John Peel and tour dates with Radiohead, one of the many most famous bands to cite the influence of the trio.

One of the band’s best-known fans was Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, who re-recorded two Low songs on his 2010 album “Band of Joy.”

Low’s early albums such as “I Could Live in Hope” were renowned for their serenity and—true to the band’s name—low volume and tempo, qualities that saw the musical term “slow core” overused in reviews. That Changed Forever With 2005’s Loudest Masterpiece “The Great Destroyer”, the first of the band’s seven records for famed Seattle-based label Sub Pop Records of Nirvana.

“It never felt forced, or anything other than natural,” Parker said of their amplified sound in a 2005 Star Tribune interview. kind of like, ‘Where does that come from? “”

The best known of Low’s albums, however, was probably 1999’s. “Christmas,” an eight-song collection of new and traditional holiday tunes imbued with the couple’s icy harmonies as well as their true Christian faith. He would appear in TV commercials for The Gap and make many rock’s top Christmas album lists.

Parker, Sparhawk and new bassist Liz Draper managed to perform at clubs and festivals across America and Europe in the first half of 2022 on the hit “Hey What”, before Parker needed to more processing.

In a interview this summer, Parker said she and Sparhawk were keen to spotlight their unique and tight-knit singing parts on the well-received 2021 album.

“When we started recording the vocals on this record, we were like, ‘Whoa!’ ” she says. “They were pretty punchy and centered. We were singing just pretty well. So it became kind of a cornerstone.”

The trio crowded into a final short set in Duluth this past Labor Day weekend for the Water Is Life environmental rally at Bayfront Festival Park. Their last performance in Twin Cities was significant: the group led and organized the garden scene in June at what turned out to be the Walker Art Center’s final Rock the Garden festival, where Low made waves in 2013 with a buzzing improv set.

Draper recalled a moment during one of the band’s final shows this summer, when an audience member shouted, “Mimi, you’re an angel!”

“I remember thinking whoever shouted that was right: Mim is a shining light, and we’ve been blessed with her strength and grace here on earth,” the bassist said.

“Mim was stoic and kind. She was an amazing mother. Low was truly a matriarch, and I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to make music with her.”

Low’s longtime sound engineer Tom Herbers, who had worked with the band since 1994 and virtually became its fourth member, said he was used to being “emotionally overwhelmed during a show, even after all these years” because of Parker’s “transcendent” voice.

Offstage, Herbers added, he enjoyed “her humor, quick wit and no-nonsense attitude.”

Reactions to Parker’s death quickly piled up on social media on Sunday, where many other musicians and fans celebrated his musical career as well as his reserved, positive and stable personality.

“Thank you for all your beautiful music,” tweeted Semisonic’s Dan Wilson.

Gaelynn Lea, another musician from Duluth, wrote, “Mimi’s legacy is love and beauty, and the world is a better place because of her.”

Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy – who produced Low’s 2013 album ‘The Invisible Way’ and frequently recruited them as openers – posted a musical tribute on his Sub-battery power supply featuring his own version of the dark song “I Hear…Good Night”, which Low originally recorded with Australian instrumental trio Dirty Three.

Sub Pop Records tweeted in response to the news, “Forever close and sacred. We love you guys.”

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson tweeted to Sparhawk and the family: “This community loves you and we are here to support you. We are so sorry for the loss of your music, your life and your partner. family. May Mim’s beautiful voice and deep love echo beyond and light your way.”