Mazzy Star Cofounder David Roback Is Dead at 61

The L.A.-bred guitarist was also known for psych-rock revival band Rain Parade

David Roback, the musician best known for cofounding the beloved, genre-eluding band Mazzy Star with singer and lyricist Hope Sandoval in Santa Monica in 1989 has died at age 61, a publicist confirmed Tuesday. No date or cause of death has been given.

In an era when raucous, blaring, often tongue-in-cheek “grunge” bands like Nirvana, the Pixies, and Mother Love Bone were starting to dictate the sound of the day, Roback and Sandoval confounded and exited music fans and critics alike with a low-key style that has been described as “cosmic,” “hazy,” “haunting,” “subdued,” and “ethereal.”

A review of Mazzy Star’s 1993 sophomore L.P. So Tonight That I Might See—which garnered the band its only hit with “Fade into You”—described the duo as being “unwavering in their solemn resolve to remain completely subdued, resistant to any kind of hope or need to pick themselves up; Instead, content to wallow in limp, listless misery. Ambivalent to its self-imposed constraints, the album flows as a consistent, tangent sentence, drawn out across a dreamy, dusty landscape.”

Another review of the album describes “Mary of Silence” as “an organ-led slow shuffle that easily ranks with the best of the Doors, strung-out and captivating all at once, Sandoval’s singing and Roback’s careful acid soloing perfect foils.”

Roback, a producer and keyboardist as well as guitarist, was also influential in L.A.’s return to psychedelic music in the early 1980s, when his band Rain Parade led the city’s “Paisley underground” movement.

Mazzy Star seemed to disappear after their third album, 1996’s Among My Swan, but returned 17 years later with 2013’s Seasons of Your Day, “a beautifully tender record in debt to the Southern Gothic.”

The glowing reviews seemed to mean little to Roback, however. Asked to explain why so many people were moved by Mazzy Star, Roback told the Times, “So much about music is over-determined by television and what people write and say about it,” he said. “You have to leave something to people’s imagination, so they feel they can participate. Music is music. We don’t want to be part of that over-determination. We feel you should be able to shut your eyes and listen to it.”

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