Mark Hollis, Frontman of Influential '80s Group Talk Talk, Dies at 64

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Mark Hollis of Talk Talk photographed in 1990.

Mark Hollis, frontman of '80s hitmakers and post-rock innovators Talk Talk, has died. The news was confirmed by Hollis' longtime manager, Keith Aspden, who told BBC News on Tuesday (Feb. 25), "Sadly, it's true. Mark has died after a short illness from which he never recovered." Aspden did not offer any further details on the cause of death. Hollis was 64. 

Born in London in 1955, Hollis abandoned his collegiate plans in his late teens to become a songwriter, eventually forming the band The Reaction in the late '70s. The group disbanded after just one single, and Hollis shifted his attention to new band Talk Talk, taking its name from a demo ("Talk Talk Talk Talk") Hollis had penned for his previous group.

That song, also shortened to "Talk Talk" and released as the lead single to debut album The Party's Over, became Hollis' breakthrough hit with his new group, a fiery synth-pop missive that hit No. 75 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982. The group's greatest commercial success would come with the anthemic title track to its second LP, It's My Life, hitting No. 31 on the Hot 100 in 1984 and enduring as one of the most iconic singles of the new wave era, also receiving a hit cover from '80s acolytes No Doubt in 2003.

While Talk Talk's commercial success largely stalled in the U.S. after "It's My Life," they grew more popular in their native Britian, hitting the top 10 of the U.K. albums chart with 1986's The Colour of Spring and the top 20 of the singles chart with lead single "Life's What You Make It." The album also marked the beginning of Talk Talk's transition from a singles-focused new wave group to a more experimental, LP-geared, sonically amorphous outfit.

That evolution culminated with their next two albums, 1988's Spirit of Eden and 1991's Laughing Stock, which received a muted commercial response and mixed reviews. But the sets' languorous, almost jazzy feel and soulful, naturalistic songwriting led to them being considered today as formative texts in the genre that would come to be known as post-rock, and proving influential on next-generation artists ranging from M83 to Death Cab for Cutie. (Many critics have also noted how the group's evolution from contemporary hitmakers to genre-shifting album artists was paralleled a decade later by Radiohead, to even greater success.) 

Talk Talk broke up following Laughing Stock, and Hollis released a lone solo album, 1998's well-received self-titled effort, before retiring from the music industry altogether. "I don’t believe that a family and tours can go together," he said in a 1998 interview explaining his decision. "Therefore, it was an easy choice for me, and a final one." Hollis' presence in the public sphere afterwards was sporadic at best, though he did compose the instrumental piece "ARB Section 1" for the Starz TV drama Boss in 2012. 

"mark hollis was a genius," summarized the official Twitter account for Canadian indie rock veterans Stars following news of Hollis' passing. "nobody made music that sounded like his... this one hurts. badly."