Mama here comes midnight...
March 18, 2013 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Jason Molina, of Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., passed away this past Saturday

Molina had struggled with alcoholism and died of organ failure. He was 39.

I haven't the words.

posted by Hey Dean Yeager! (97 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Oh shit shit shit shit shit. Songs: Ohia is some of my favorite music. Axxess & Ace got me through a terrible breakup. The collaboration with Scout Niblett on 'Peoria Lunchbox Blues' is one of my go-to songs for essentially any mood.

Shit shit shit shit shit.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:04 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

horrible news. trying to console myself with favorites, especially "Wing + Prayer" as it seems fitting somehow. it's the right weather for it--it stormed violently loudly all night and it's still going. everything's dark outside and here i am, shocked and heartbroken.
posted by ifjuly at 10:04 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:07 AM on March 18, 2013


posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:08 AM on March 18, 2013

We had a friend die of heart failure recently...he was drinking himself to death. He kind of just gave up. It was probably a blessing that his heart went in his sleep; he was getting this bloated, jaundiced look, the look of organ failure, and was due for a longer, worse death.

No one should go out like that.
posted by thelonius at 10:08 AM on March 18, 2013

posted by JohnFredra at 10:09 AM on March 18, 2013

posted by The Minotaur at 10:10 AM on March 18, 2013

One of the fragile and true souls.

posted by naju at 10:13 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


posted by deadbilly at 10:16 AM on March 18, 2013

Molina's music was always a solace in my worst times. I'd heard he was in a bad way, but...

Rest in peace.
posted by notsnot at 10:18 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fuck, I was so excited to see a post titled with the lyrics of my favorite MEC song.



(listen here)
posted by telegraph at 10:19 AM on March 18, 2013

Also great but I can't find all online, "Trans Am", "45 Degrees (East's Heart Divided)", "Reggae (New Albion or All Pass)", "Sept. 17 (Separations: Reminder)", "Being In Love", "Coxcomb Red" (I watched you hold the son in your arms while he bled to death/he grew so pale next to you/the world is so pale next to you), "Baby Take A Look", "Vu Anxiety", "So You Can See To Go (There Will Be Distance)" (made the hair on my neck tingle the first time I heard it, like a lot of his things--his songs were always INTENSE), "7th Street Wonderland" (the sky was full with a grey winter light/and each freezing degree made its target that night/the pulse of the snow was the pulse of twilight/the pulse of the snow was the pulse of diamonds/and you wear it in your hair like a constellation/and we both swear by the size of that moon/that the sky will sing tonight...I could kiss the person who posted that as nobody ever seems to know about that 7-inch), "Darling You Are...", "Tigress", "How To Be Perfect Men", "Captain Badass", "Rich Kids" (rich kid, I'm talkin' to you), "Two Blue Lights", "The Black Crow" (I'm getting weaker, I'm getting thin/I hate how obvious I have been), "Nervous Bride" goes on and on. I also love that he was chummy and supportive of ladies like Edith Frost and Scout Niblett.

When I drove into Pittsburgh at 18 to start college, someone at Carnegie Mellon's student-programmed station WRCT was looping "The Lioness" obsessively; it came on the car radio as I entered the city and continued all afternoon as I unpacked in my little dorm room alone. I remember thinking it was a great introductory memory to this new chapter in my life. I've never forgotten it.
posted by ifjuly at 10:23 AM on March 18, 2013 [11 favorites]

RIP Jason.
posted by radiocontrolled at 10:24 AM on March 18, 2013

posted by mountmccabe at 10:25 AM on March 18, 2013

ThisIsMyJam has a tribute page set up for Jason.
posted by jazon at 10:27 AM on March 18, 2013


posted by fight or flight at 10:28 AM on March 18, 2013

Shit... too young.

posted by yaymukund at 10:29 AM on March 18, 2013

He was 39, so roughly my age and the age of my closest friends. When things like this happen I always wonder how much the person was drinking. I know a lot of people this age who drink A LOT A LOT and the don't seem like they are on the verge of dying.
posted by josher71 at 10:30 AM on March 18, 2013


posted by threeants at 10:33 AM on March 18, 2013

Sometimes I forget how I've always been sick/and I don't have the will to keep fighting it

posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:39 AM on March 18, 2013

posted by bwilms at 10:39 AM on March 18, 2013

posted by eyeballkid at 10:42 AM on March 18, 2013

josher71, it varies by person of course, but usually people are up to abut a fifth of liquor a day to get into dead before 40 territory. But some alcoholics do that for years and don't die.
posted by thelonius at 10:43 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I met Jason in 2000 after doing everything I could to get Jonathan of Secretly Canadian to get him to play in Toronto.

I remember him being very approachable and quiet and genuinely interested in what people thought of his music. The Lioness had just come out and I told him how much I loved the album. He thanked me and said he was really proud of it and that it broke his heart that reviews weren't going to be very positive. He said he had been interviewed for a cover spot on Magnet--one of the top alt-music rags of the time--but once they heard the record they told him it wasn't going to happen. He seemed truly crestfallen.

Jason's music helped me through so many bad times. I'm especially fond of the acoustic version of what was the first release with the name Magnolia Electric Company. I don't remember how many of them were made--I'm thinking 1000--but it's a gem.

posted by dobbs at 10:48 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

posted by misskaz at 10:49 AM on March 18, 2013

To the degree that my partner of 10+ years and I have ever had an "our song," it's always been Captain Badass.

Few lines more perfectly describe our relationship and its origin than:

Resistance failed...
..and friendship failed
As lovers we did not fail.
posted by deadbilly at 10:51 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I ran into him at the grocery store when I was living in Chicago. His music means the world to me, but it's so raw, I couldn't find a polite way to say it, him being a stranger.

How do you cheerfully say, "Hey man, you know that song about how you constantly let down everyone who loves you? I totally do that too!" It seemed better just to nod and let him be.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:52 AM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

I was fortunate enough to see him perform twice. He put on a great show -- his music was no bullshit, and neither was he. Hold On, Magnolia.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:56 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh no.

Axxess and Ace playing for the rest of the week in my cubicle. Stop by.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 10:57 AM on March 18, 2013

feel like the words to "Goodnight Lover" are oddly fitting in some ways.

you mistrusted what will bleed what will not die will not leave
the heart was first in that line
though it was under those conditions we were free
we were free we were free
under those conditions of pain that would not leave
you were all i ever trusted
you're self-made, you're self-made
you made it on hard work and risk
hard work
how will i live without you
without your customs of working and thinking action through?
these days are obvious to you
how selfless for time to conclude
what would be the day for leaving to work its charm on you
and i can tell by that look you were thinking the same thing too
if this can't last, just what can last?
then it's lights out after this kiss
then time can't torment us
this will have to serve
goodnight lover
wherever you are

posted by ifjuly at 10:57 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by fungible at 11:00 AM on March 18, 2013

I found 'Magnolia Electric Company' and 'Axxes and Ace' at one of the darkest points in my life; I won't say that the music was comforting, exactly, but hearing somebody speaking directly to the pain I was feeling meant something. This is terrible news.

posted by Tiresias at 11:05 AM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

This version of Don't This Look Like the Dark, recorded live for a radio session in Belgium, positively tears my heart out. I have never heard him sound truer and more piercing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:06 AM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

Relating to the "how much did he drink?" thing, it probably bears mention that he was a short, slight man. You probably know kids in junior high bigger than Jason Molina was. Not that that matters for what kind of person he was... I'm just saying he was small and liquor probably did a number on his body much worse than it would have for many people.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:23 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Always loved this version of Freedom.
posted by dobbs at 11:25 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

The real truth about it is no one gets it right /
The real truth about it is we're all supposed to try.

god damn it.

posted by ndfine at 11:30 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also, here is Magnolia Electric Co's performance at the Bottletree in Birmingham, AL:
posted by ndfine at 11:35 AM on March 18, 2013

His lyrics and the mood of his songs can be melancholy and intense. I met him once, though, in the toilets in Mono in Glasgow, and he was bent double with laughter at how poor the poster advertising his gig was - proper, tears-in-the-eyes mirth.

Tough to pick a favourite song, but the moment when Love Leaves its Abusers lets go, just after two minutes, is incredible.

posted by liquidindian at 11:35 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:36 AM on March 18, 2013

posted by ghharr at 11:37 AM on March 18, 2013

I don't think anyone meant to be insensitive, item. It's just a hard thing to make sense out of... I think it was more a reflection on how incomprehensible serious alcoholism can be than idle ruminating on the mechanics of drinking oneself to death.

You're probably right, though.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:39 AM on March 18, 2013

You might also consider that in a thread full of people saying how they identified with him, some folks may have wanted to do a gut check on their own drinking.

I know I did.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:42 AM on March 18, 2013 [7 favorites]

posted by Chichibio at 11:59 AM on March 18, 2013


ifjuly, I was a DJ at WRCT for the four years I spent in Pittsburgh and discovered Jason Molina through the other awesome DJs there. I'm happy to hear that the station did the same for you!
posted by musicismath at 12:11 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I didn't mean to be insensitive. I too know people that knew Jason.

When someone your own age dies of something like alcoholism, and you are a heavy drinker yourself, as I am, it's natural to wonder just what was so different.

That's the last I'll say about it.

posted by josher71 at 12:25 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

WHAT?? Sigha. This is a loss.

posted by nevercalm at 12:29 PM on March 18, 2013

I will be gone but not forever
The real truth about it is
no one gets it right

The big star is falling
Through the static and distance
A farewell transmission

posted by Wonton Cruelty at 12:35 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't have the words for any of this, my brain is in total shutdown-to-brain-stem mode because the grief is too suffocating and raw, this man's music has been a perfect solace to me for the past 15 years like absolutely no other music I've ever heard. He felt just like me, so weary, so lost, so broken but still dragging himself along on wounded feet because what else is there to do, where else can you go except on -- and this kind of life's no better off if I've got the map or if I'm lost -- but he was a fucking survivor. I looked up to him because he felt like me but he was still alive. He survived... at least for a while. And now he's dead.

if I'm all fangs
and all lies
and all poison
if I'm exactly what they're saying
I don't want to disappoint them

Goddamnit, Jason. You were loved, you are loved, we will all miss you so much. Thank you for everything -- just everything. I owe you a debt I could never repay.

posted by divined by radio at 12:37 PM on March 18, 2013 [10 favorites]

posted by fillsthepews at 12:43 PM on March 18, 2013

posted by creeky at 12:52 PM on March 18, 2013

Final Transmission is a wonderful, very heavy and timely song..... I find the lyrics to be so deep, particularly at this time....
posted by swlabr at 12:53 PM on March 18, 2013

Thank YOU divined by radio, for your lyrics just now... we are not alone...

After tonight if you don't want us to be
a secret out of the past
I will resurrect it, I'll have a good go at it
I'll streak his blood across my beak and dust my feathers with his ashes
I can feel his ghost breathing down my back
I will try and know whatever I try,
I will be gone but not forever
The real truth about it is
no one gets it right
The real truth about it is
we're all supposed to try

Final Transmission
posted by swlabr at 12:59 PM on March 18, 2013

I used his music to end my evening radio show with regular frequency - and sometimes I would time it so this song would end and to just fade out into static.

posted by zenon at 1:01 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am in the studio of WIUS in 2003, in the middle of a Saturday night, at my weekly college radio show, digging through their shelves of albums, discovering Songs:Ohia for the first time. That's a nice memory I will keep with me. My musical world opened up from there. He has been with me since.

posted by Sreiny at 1:07 PM on March 18, 2013

God damn it.
posted by penduluum at 1:19 PM on March 18, 2013

posted by Flashman at 2:00 PM on March 18, 2013

posted by dizziest at 2:01 PM on March 18, 2013

posted by suprenant at 2:17 PM on March 18, 2013

posted by furnace.heart at 2:18 PM on March 18, 2013

This guy's music really meant a lot to me. I had heard he'd fallen on hard times recently, but had hoped he'd pull out of them. I only saw him live once but it was a really outstanding set.

Not Just a Ghost's Heart

posted by whir at 2:30 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Saddening news. I've always considered him a poet for writing a song such as this. You are eternal Mr Molina.

posted by cihan at 2:36 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by p3t3 at 2:45 PM on March 18, 2013


posted by flaneur at 2:48 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by klausness at 2:54 PM on March 18, 2013

posted by tealsocks at 3:43 PM on March 18, 2013

Fuck. His entire output was pretty quality but Magnolia Electric Co. (the Songs:Ohia album) is, to me, one of the most beautiful albums ever made. Also, I credit The Old Black Hen with making me realize that I unironically love country music.
posted by saul wright at 3:44 PM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

Wow, this is the first death of a famous person that has truly affected me. His music played a very large part in my late teens and early 20s. I haven't listened to him in a while but his music is still on constant rotation in my head.

Anyway, I decided to dredge up an old hard drive and post a video that my friend took of Magnolia Electric Co. concert we went to in Richmond in 2003. I don't think anyone has ever seen the video before. I booked him to play a rock festival in Charlottesville in 2004, I never really spoke to him (just his agent) because I was pretty socially awkward/intimidated back then, oh well. The best show of his I saw was in 2001 in Harrisonburg, VA he played on the steps of the town Courthouse with a little battery powered Pignose amplifier. His voice was so beautiful and fragile.

His tour album Protection Spells was so raw and immediate and I suppose had a limited release, but IMO was among his strongest material. Didn't It Rain was such an important album to me and brings back so many memories. Axxess and Ace too. As mentioned above, 7th Street Wonderland and Darling You Are... are two powerful tracks as well. Man, he was an incredible songwriter.
posted by cloeburner at 5:00 PM on March 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Axxess & Ace is probably my favourite album of all time and the sheer weight of memories from my life that can be connected in some way with Jason Molina's Songs: Ohia...I can honestly say that his work has helped define me as a person, or at least define how I see myself and how I feel inside.

I'm sorry you couldn't get the ghosts out, Jason. Not that it matters any more, but you helped me get out a lot of mine. But now there's yours to deal with as well.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 5:05 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

"Thanks for the songs, Jason Molina." -- This is pretty amazing. Came up automatically when I switched my 'jam' over to MEC.

posted by divined by radio at 5:32 PM on March 18, 2013

posted by fitnr at 6:58 PM on March 18, 2013

God. Damn.

You know he cut an album with Will Oldham? Great track

The Songs:Ohia album Didn't it Rain is vastly important to me. I'm sorry things ended this way.
posted by OrangeDrink at 7:18 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Aww, man. Fuck. One of my favorites. Terribly, terribly sad to hear this.
posted by troublewithwolves at 7:30 PM on March 18, 2013

You know he cut an album with Will Oldham? Great track

It's a beautiful album. I rediscovered it, Amalgamated Sons of Rest, in a friend's record collection on Sunday, what a pairing. We talked about our obsession with Molina, and now this.
posted by Sreiny at 10:30 PM on March 18, 2013

posted by !Jim at 10:46 PM on March 18, 2013

posted by gamera at 10:59 PM on March 18, 2013

posted by sherber at 1:10 AM on March 19, 2013

posted by neushoorn at 5:19 AM on March 19, 2013

posted by kjh at 7:36 AM on March 19, 2013

posted by justnathan at 7:47 AM on March 19, 2013

cloeburner, I was at that show too. It was a transformative experience for me. Did you stay with it when the police asked him to stop, and we all moved to a middle school cafetorium, where he played until 2:30 or 3 AM? We made him retune his guitar specifically so that he could play Captain Badass.

posted by eulily at 7:51 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Damn, I did not know that happened. I wish I saw that, but instead I saw Onelinedrawing (which I guess I appreciated at the time, but he pales in comparison to Jason Molina)
posted by cloeburner at 7:57 AM on March 19, 2013

Back On Top dir. by Tim Sutton.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:39 AM on March 19, 2013


I can't even pick a favorite song or album, they're all so good, and in different ways. Jason was a tremendously nice person and of course an incredible talent.

posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:40 AM on March 19, 2013

posted by likeatoaster at 11:35 AM on March 19, 2013

posted by jann at 1:40 PM on March 19, 2013

posted by bennett being thrown at 2:55 PM on March 19, 2013




posted by it's a long way to south america at 5:50 PM on March 19, 2013

posted by agog at 9:59 PM on March 19, 2013

The moon, the heart, the owl. All of these are ancient trails. I don't know exactly why these have become my familiars. I think it is a whole lot of loneliness or the need to wander when in fact I need to be at home. I think of the moon as a home. The heart as a road. The owl as the bird that carries me on. I'm not trying to be abstract here. These are very dear to me and need to be in the songs.

"A Secret of the Heart on the Sleeve:" Jason Molina, 1973 – 2013
posted by divined by radio at 4:26 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Jason (who many of us originally knew as Sparky)'s whole catalogue, including some odd tracks from compilations, is streaming online here, for now at least.
posted by cushie at 8:15 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

i really appreciate that, divined by radio. this part in particular is the closest thing i've seen in posted reactions to how my friends and i reacted (we were all sort of embarrassed and furtive about it at first, and then when we confessed to each other how much it hurt it felt better to not feel so alone):

The wave of shock and grief I experienced upon hearing the news of Jason Molina’s passing was not commensurate with what I was supposed to feel after hearing about the death of a near-stranger, a performer, a rock songwriter. Instead, it’s a personal, intimate loss. Molina’s own honesty fostered that kind of connection with his listeners. The raw tenderness of his voice, the cohesive family of his images, the warm, lingering chords, and his refusal to back away from difficulty coalesce into a welcoming; a welcoming of interpretation, empathy, association, relating...

It can be embarrassing to mourn a performer who we technically have no “real” relationship with. It’s not cool. Fuck that. If you are a fan of Molina’s music, you know it transcends the appropriate, cuts through the layers of cool and the intimacy it fosters is absolutely 100 percent real. If Molina’s songs affected you, if they filled an emptiness, gave voice to your thoughts and emotions, brought you solace, then let the rest of us know we’re not alone. Everyone I’ve talked to who encountered him came away somehow encouraged, lifted. For those of us too far away personally to attend his memorial, but too close emotionally to simply do nothing, sharing these stories might help.

and thanks for the heads up on the stream of his entire catalog, cushie. that's awesome. esp. to see stuff like the protection spells e.p. and western vinyl 7 inch, really amazing work that a lot of people might otherwise never get to hear.
posted by ifjuly at 4:57 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Everyone who is duly moved to do so, please read and add to the remembrances that are being posted on the MECO forum. They help, they hurt, they hurt, they fucking hurt, but they help, too.

"I thought of JMo as my interpreter..."

If you haven't yet, please listen to the demo version of "The Big Game Is Every Night" here. And everything, just... everything.

I still lack the eloquence and insight to properly express the depth of this loss, I'm still crying over it for hours every goddamned day, and even though so many people have said they knew it was coming one way or another, I still cannot even fucking believe or comprehend any of it at all. I don't know who else to look to as a survivor, as someone who keeps walking through the dark (and dark, and dark, and dark) because there is just nothing else you can do except keep following the road. Love and hope to those of you who feel the same way.
posted by divined by radio at 8:55 AM on March 22, 2013


This song always haunted me, and is a favorite: "Leave the City" [SLYT].

And, perhaps upstream and I have not seen, from Pitchfork: "The Road Becomes What You Leave [Vimeo], a documentary by Todd Chandler documenting a Magnolia Electric Co. tour of Canada, from the Soujourner box set".
posted by simulacra at 10:36 AM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dunno if this is appropriate, if not delete away but: some of the Electrical Audio folks are putting together a tribute comp to help defray the costs of Molina's medical treatment for his family. If you are interested in recording a song, either a cover or just something inspired by all of this, I think the deadline for submission is April 20th or so. .WAV files only, IIRC. More info here (that page also has links to some decent obit posts from The New Yorker, Tim Midyett, etc. including some touching advice Molina gave someone about the writing process).
posted by ifjuly at 12:30 PM on March 23, 2013

I just heard about this.

posted by not_on_display at 10:40 PM on April 17, 2013

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