Bloomington, Ind.-based indie label Secretly Canadian confirmed a few minutes ago that musician Jason Molina, of Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co. and other projects, died on Saturday. He was 39.
As someone who came of age in the 1990s (both in high school and college), Songs: Ohia formed one of the cornerstones of my musical education. The band first came to my attention amid my growing fascination with the like-minded singer-songwriter Will Oldham, who released Molina’s first single “Nor Cease Thou Never Now” in 1996 on his Palace Records.
Molina’s wavering, heart-rending vocals and alarmingly intimate narratives were both uplifting and devastating, and he truly cut a singular sonic figure among the mid-to-late ’90s indie scene that came to embrace him over a dozen-plus albums.
Although Secretly Canadian noted the reason for his death as “natural causes,” Chunklet editor Henry Owings, a friend a sometime-booker of Molina’s, noted it as organ failure due to alcohol abuse — a disease that Molina had been struggling mightily with for most of the last decade.
Molina’s persona fit nicely next to other poetic troubadours of ’90s indie rock, such as Will Johnson of Centro-Matic and Dave Doughman of Swearing at Motorists — artists whose influence and intensity far outstripped their commercial profile.
Personally, I find his early passing incredibly sad and my heart goes out to his family, friends and fans. Having interviewed, seen in concert and casually talked to Jason a few times over the years, I can say he was a kind, funny, unassuming person who always made you feel at ease. He will be missed greatly and leaves behind a singular body of work.