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Low's Mimi Parker Has Died, Aged 55
Christian Eede , November 6th, 2022 21:15

The drummer and vocalist had been living with ovarian cancer since 2020

Mimi Parker, the drummer and vocalist for Low, has died at the age of 55, her husband and bandmate Alan Sparhawk has said.

Parker was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2020, and the band had been forced to cancel a number of live shows in the years that followed. She began treatment for the cancer in 2021, and publicly revealed the diagnosis for the first time earlier this year during a podcast interview.

Writing to reveal news of Parker's passing on social media, Sparhawk said: "Friends, it's hard to put the universe into language and into a short message, but she passed away last night, surrounded by family and love, including yours. Keep her name close and sacred. Share this moment with someone who needs you. Love is indeed the most important thing."

Born in 1967, Parker grew up in a small town just outside the Minnesotan city of Bemidji. She later moved to Duluth for college following a childhood that saw her immersed in music – her mother was an aspiring country singer who frequently played music around the house. Early experiments as a teenager saw Parker create harmonies to go alongside her sister's guitar-playing.

She and Sparhawk met at primary school and began dating while in high school. They formed Low in 1993, initially with bassist Jon Nichols. Renowned for her slow, minimalist percussive style which led many to christen their music with the tag "slowcore," early Low material saw Parker make use of a stripped-back drum set-up comprised of just a snare, cymbal and floor tom. She often played with brushes instead of drumsticks.

The band released their debut album, I Could Live In Hope, in 1994, and Nichols was soon replaced by another bassist, Zak Sally. A number of studio albums followed through the remainder of the '90s and a partnership was established with the US label Kranky for the release of three full-length records between 1999 and 2002.

They saw out the '90s with the release of the Christmas EP, which included a cover of the track 'Little Drummer Boy' – that song later appeared in an advert for the fashion brand Gap. In 2004, the band released The Great Destroyer, their first album with Sub Pop, a label that they have remained signed to since. It saw them pick up the pace slightly of the slowcore tag they'd been given, but retained key elements of the band's sound.

Low released 13 studio albums in all, with the most recent, HEY WHAT, coming out last year and featuring among tQ's favourite albums of that year. Parker and Sparhawk remained the two consistent members of the band's lineup as various different bassists joined the mix, and last year's record was the first that they recorded as a duo.

Speaking to tQ last year about stepping out to play on stage during the band's early days, Parker said: "In my mind, I imagined it and thought I'd be great. But I was introverted, and I was very nervous, sometimes I'd struggle to get in front of people. The songs on I Could Live In Hope are very sparse, very minimal – it was even more naked than most music out there. It was challenging for me at times.

"Some people would hang out and talk to us after the shows, we met a lot of friends that way. But we kind of knew it wasn't going to appeal to everyone. Some people would walk out from our gigs, it just wasn't their thing. I learnt early on you shouldn't take everything personally. The music could be difficult. The songs were slow, there was a lot of space. It's introspective, sober music and a lot of people don't want to be introspective or sober. They're at a bar, they probably want to hang out and listen to loud party music. We weren't that."

A number of musicians have taken to social media to pay tribute to Parker. Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite said he was "absolutely heartbroken by the news" of her death, while Steve Albini, who produced a number of Low's albums, said: "I heard the news in the most base circumstances, surrounded by degenerates, stuck and cursing, in a conference room in Deerfield. I was momentarily overwhelmed, the sound of her voice resonant in my memory, beautiful and heartbreaking. Godspeed Mimi Parker."

Parker is survived by her husband, as well as their two children, Hollis and Cyrus.