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Van Conner, bassist and co-founder of grunge band Screaming Trees, dies at 55

Four men with long hair pose for photos
Screaming Trees bassist Van Conner, right, died Wednesday at age 55.
(Gie Knaeps / Getty Images)
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Members of the American grunge band Screaming Trees are mourning the loss of co-founder and bassist Van Conner, who died early Wednesday at age 55.

Gary Lee Conner announced his brother’s death Wednesday on his Instagram and Facebook accounts and said Van Conner died of “an extended illness.”

“It was pneumonia that got him in the end,” Gary Lee wrote. “He was one of the closest friends I ever had and I loved him immensely. I will miss him forever and ever and ever…”

Since Screaming Trees formed seven years ago, its lineup has been as tempestuous and undefinable as its sound, which cuts and swirls in nebulous regions between the Doors, the Stooges and Husker Du.

Earlier this month, Gary Lee gave Screaming Trees fans an update on his brother’s health. On Jan. 5, he wrote on Instagram that Van was “hospitalized with a liver infection” and had “also been suffering from an array of health problems since late 2021.”

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Another update, posted Sunday to the Screaming Trees Facebook page, detailed more health complications Van had experienced.

“It’s going to be a long road for him but his family is giving him a lot of support. He has many more songs to write...” the post said.

The music of the Northwest’s Screaming Trees is a dense, sodden version of the Meat Puppets’ sun-crazed anthills of sound.

On Wednesday, former Screaming Trees drummer Mark Pickerel honored his bandmate on Twitter.

“Let us lower the flannel flag to half-mast,while we celebrate the life of my dear friend and band mate, Van Conner, who crossed over to the other side, early this AM,” Pickerel tweeted, sharing a photo of Van Conner holding a guitar.

Pickerel also noted that the Screaming Tree bassist’s death came amid another emotional milestone for the band.

“Hearts are heavy, as we’re just a year shy of the anniversary of fellow member-Mark Lanegan‘s untimely departure,” he added.

Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees, whose 1992 hit ‘Nearly Lost You’ helped drive grunge’s commercial breakthrough, died Tuesday at 57.

Vocalist Lanegan died in February 2022 at age 57.

Van and Gary Lee Conner formed Screaming Trees in a small Washington town in 1984 and added Lanegan as vocalist and Pickerel as drummer in the following years.

In 1985, the band debuted its first EP, “Other Worlds,” and released one album every year up to 1989. Its most recent album was 2011’s “Last Words: Final Recordings.”

In another Facebook post on Wednesday, Gary Lee Conner shared a tribute song to his late brother, titled “Fade Out City (Epistle to Van).”

“When I was about 8, I had a dream I was in a cemetery and I wanted to put a letter on Van’s grave. This is apparently what it said,” Gary Lee said.

In the stripped-down tune, he sings of a cloudy sky, moving to the titular town, and “all the years that passed.”

“Bye, Van,” Gary Lee concluded the song.


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