Hollis was the founder, lead singer and songwriter of Talk Talk
Confirming the icon’s death, Hollis’ longtime manager Keith Aspden told NPR that he had passed away at the age of 64 after a short illness.
“I can’t tell you how much Mark influenced and changed my perceptions on art and music,” he said. “I’m grateful for the time I spent with him and for the gentle beauty he shared with us.”
Many have taken online to pay tribute to the influential musician on social media including the musician’s cousin, Anthony Costello, Paul Webb – his former band mate – and Tim Pope, who directed Talk Talk’s music videos.
The lead singer and primary songwriter of Talk Talk, Hollis co-founded the band in 1981 alongside drummer Lee Harris, bassist Paul Webb and keyboard player Simon Brenner. They had early synth-pop success with singles ‘Talk Talk’, ‘It’s My Life’ and ‘Such a Shame’ together with several critically-acclaimed albums, including ‘Spirit of Eden’ and ‘Laughing Stock.’
After the band disbanded in 1991, Hollis released a well received, self-titled solo album in 1998 before retiring from the music industry. Speaking about his decision not to tour and to maintain a private lifestyle at the time, Hollis said: “I choose for my family. Maybe others are capable of doing it, but I can’t go on tour and be a good dad at the same time.”
Pope said on Twitter: “Goodbye to Mark Hollis of Talk Talk. Condolences to his lovely family. We had many, many laughs together…”
His cousin-in-law tweeted: “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.” Later, he thanked what he described as a “lovely response” from Hollis’ “many fans” on social media.
Talk Talk’s bassist Webb, aka Rustin Man, also paid tribute to his former band mate on Facebook, writing: “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. He knew how to create a depth of feeling with sound and space like no other. He was one of the greats, if not the greatest.”
Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran said: “We, Duran Duran, are very sorry to learn that one of music’s great innovators Mark Hollis has died. The band Talk Talk, which he co-founded and fronted, were on tour with us in 1982; it made for a tremendous & very entertaining bill. Mark was the main songwriter of some truly great songs, including ‘It’s My Life’ & ‘It’s A Shame’.”
They continued: “In 1988 the extraordinary album ‘Spirit of Eden’ was released. His talent will be remembered & his music will live on.”
You can read some of the many other tributes to Hollis from artists and fans below:
Hollis initially formed a band called The Reaction, but the band soon disbanded after their debut single was unsuccessful. Forming Talk Talk shortly after, the band quickly achieved a recording deal with EMI.
The band began at first as part of the popular synth-pop movement of the 80s but garnered more art-house influences as they experimented and improvised with a range of diverse styles and instrumentation.
Speaking about their seminal album, ‘Spirit of Eden’, Hollis told Rock’s Back Pages: “It’s certainly a reaction to the music that’s around at the moment ‘cos most of that is shit. It’s only radical in the modern context. It’s not radical compared to what was happening 20 years ago. If we’d have delivered this album to the record company 20 years ago they wouldn’t have batted an eyelid.”
Discussing the enduring influence of Hollis, Elbow’s Guy Garvey told Mojo in 2012: “Mark Hollis started from punk and by his own admission he had no musical ability. To go from only having the urge, to writing some of the most timeless, intricate and original music ever is as impressive as the moon landings.”