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Mimi Parker, known for her creepy vocals and sparse drumming in the critically acclaimed rock band Low, died on Saturday. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2020.
“Friends, it’s hard to put the universe into language and a short message,” the band’s official Twitter account job 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 thing most important.”
Formed in 1993 by Parker and her husband Alan Sparhawk in Duluth, Minnesota, Low became a pivotal band in what would come to be defined as the slowcore movement of the decade. Known for their beautifully simple, buzzy, dark instrumentals, the band were anchored by their central couple’s delicate vocal harmonies, which could cut through even the harshest noise. “I pushed for beauty and I know Alan sometimes focuses on 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 chick factor Parker said she grew up in a musical family, with a mother who was an aspiring country singer. “My role was always to find harmonies, because her and my sister would usually sing the lead,” she told Terry Gross in a 2005 interview with Fresh air to make music very early with his family. “From the beginning, I learned to listen, to draw and to find harmonies.”
Parker first played drums in his high school marching band. Both practicing Mormons, she and Sparhawk first met in fourth grade and began dating when they were in middle school. Years later, the two would marry and eventually form Low with original bassist John Nichols. “Honestly, if it wasn’t for the marriage, the family…we never would have survived this long as a band,” Parker, who shares two children with Sparhawk, told NPR in 2021.
The beginnings of the group I could live in hope was released in 1994 to critical acclaim, and Low would release 13 albums in 27 years. The band signed to influential label Sub Pop in 2004, and their dynamic sound has continued to grow with releases such as 2018’s. Double negative, described in NPR Music’s Top Albums of 2018 list as “a collection of crackling transmissions sent through the din, hopeful voices rising from the craggy darkness.” The group’s last album with Parker was celebrated in 2021 HEY WHAT.
In August, the band canceled a series of shows in Europe to accommodate Parker’s cancer treatments, announcing later in October that they were canceling a European tour entirely. “There have been some tough days, but your love has supported us and will continue to see us through this,” Sparhawk wrote in a statement at the time.
In a 2022 episode of Sheroes Radio podcast, Parker revealed that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December 2020. “I think it’s important – when people get a diagnosis – that some people tend to ask why, why me” , Parker said. “I never had that. It was always, why not? We’re all subject to random things. … So it completely changed my perspective.”
“Our time may be cut short and what do we do with that time we have,” she continued. “We try to make every day mean something.”