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Mimi Parker, vocalist and drummer of the minimalist rock band Low, has died

Mimi Parker performing in 2012 in Seattle, Wash.
Timothy Hiatt
Getty Images
Mimi Parker performing in 2012 in Seattle, Wash.

Mimi Parker, known for her chilling vocals and sparse drumming in the critically acclaimed rock band Low, died on Saturday. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2020. She was 55.

"Friends, it's hard to put the universe into language and into a short message," the band's official Twitter account posted on Sunday morning. "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."

Formed in 1993 by Parker and her husband Alan Sparhawk in Duluth, Minn., Low emerged as a crucial group in what would come to be defined as the decade's slowcore movement. Known for its beautifully simple, droning and dark instrumentals, the band was anchored by the delicate vocal harmonies of its central couple, which could cut through even the harshest noise. "I've been pushing towards the beauty and I know Alan sometimes focuses on the chaos," Parker said of the band's music in a 2021 interview with All Things Considered.

Born and raised in Minnesota, in an interview with the magazine Chickfactor Parker said she grew up in a musical family, to a mother who was an aspiring country singer. "My role was always to come up with harmonies, because she and my sister would usually sing the lead," she told Terry Gross in a 2005 interview with Fresh Air of making music early with her family. "From the beginning I learned how to just listen and draw and come up with harmonies."

Parker first played drums in her high school marching band. Both practicing Mormons, she and Sparhawk first met in fourth grade and began dating when they were in junior high school. Years later the two would marry, and eventually form Low with original bass player John Nichols. "Honestly, if it hadn't been for the marriage, for the family ... we never would have survived this long as a band," Parker, who shares two children with Sparhawk, told NPR in 2021.

The band's debut I Could Live in Hope was released in 1994 to critical acclaim, and Low would go on to release 13 albums in 27 years. The band signed with the influential label Sub Pop in 2004, and its dynamic sound continued to expand with releases such as 2018's Double Negative, described in NPR Music's Best Albums of 2018 list as "a collection of crackling transmissions sent across the din, hopeful voices rising out of the craggy darkness." The band's last album with Parker was 2021's celebrated HEY WHAT.

In August the band canceled a series of shows in Europe to accommodate Parker's cancer treatments, later announcing in October that it was canceling a European tour entirely. "There have been difficult days, but your love has sustained us and will continue to lift us through this time," Sparhawk wrote in a statement at the time.

In a 2022 episode of the Sheroes Radio podcast, Parker revealed that she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December 2020. "I think it's important to — when people get a diagnosis — some people have a tendency to ask why, why me," Parker said. "I never had that. It was always, why not? We're all subject to whatever random this and that happens. ... So that has just changed my perspective completely."

"Our time can be cut short and what do we do with that time that we have," she continued. "We try to make each day mean something."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Hazel Cills
Hazel Cills is an editor at NPR Music, where she edits breaking music news, reviews, essays and interviews. Before coming to NPR in 2021, Hazel was a culture reporter at Jezebel, where she wrote about music and popular culture. She was also a writer for MTV News and a founding staff writer for the teen publication Rookie magazine.