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Remembering musician Mimi Parker, co-founder of the rock band Low

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

Mimi Parker has died. She sang and played drums for a rock band that for nearly 30 years was both a critical and cult favorite.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LULLABY")

LOW: (Singing) I sang the words I meant.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Mimi Parker co-founded the band Low with her husband Alan Sparhawk. They had known each other since elementary school. They had two children together. Low's first album came out in 1994. Last year Low recently released its 13th album, called "Hey What."

NADWORNY: Their music has often been slow and spare. But it's changed over time. In 2021, Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk told NPR producer Lee Hale that after all these years, they were still searching for new ways to create harmonies amid discord.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY")

LOW: (Singing) Told me that I never could contain - went back and wept in the car beneath the shade.

MIMI PARKER: I've been pushing towards the beauty, and I know Alan sometimes focuses on...

ALAN SPARHAWK: Chaos.

PARKER: ...The chaos.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY")

LOW: (Singing) Maybe that's the last thing you should say. Hey.

PARKER: It's been a challenge to blend that together. And I guess that's maybe what we've been trying to do the whole time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MORE")

LOW: (Singing) I gave more than what I should have lost. I paid more than what it would have cost.

SPARHAWK: Mimi's voice really is such a powerful tool to cut through the noise.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MORE")

LOW: (Singing) I want all of what I didn't have.

SPARHAWK: A humanness against the violence.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MORE")

LOW: (Vocalizing).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAYS LIKE THESE")

LOW: (Singing) When you think you've seen everything...

SPARHAWK: I mean, I think early on, we knew that that's what we were bringing to it. And, you know, I was immediately - probably the overriding thought for me in the band, especially when it first started, was like, I want to figure out a way to accommodate what you want. I think that we can figure out a way that we both do what we are wanting to happen in music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAYS LIKE THESE")

LOW: (Singing) Everybody just chased by dreams. That's why we're living in days like these again.

PARKER: I mean, it sounds like compromise is what you're describing, but I've never felt like the music...

SPARHAWK: Oh, no.

PARKER: ...That we've created has been a compromise.

SPARHAWK: Yeah. I think it's always beautiful, and it's always as crazy as I've ever...

PARKER: Yeah.

SPARHAWK: ...Beyond my imagination.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAYS LIKE THESE")

LOW: (Singing) It isn't something you can choose between. It isn't coming in twos and threes.

CHANG: Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk of the band Low. Their latest album "Hey What" was one of NPR Music's best albums of 2021.

NADWORNY: Parker suffered from ovarian cancer. In a statement, Sparhawk urged fans to, quote, "keep her name close and sacred. Share this moment with someone who needs you. Love is indeed the most important thing." She was 55 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAYS LIKE THESE")

LOW: (Singing) Maybe never even see, believe. That's why we're living in days like these again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.