Jason Molina, the leader of alternative bands Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., died Saturday night in Indianapolis from organ failure resulting from alcohol consumption. He was 39.
A perennial road dog and prolific songwriter, Molina had battled what his label called “severe alcoholism” for nearly a decade, a struggle that came to light in 2011 with a note posted on Magnolia Electric Company’s website soliciting donations to help the uninsured musician pay his growing medical bills. At the time, Molina had finished two years in and out of rehab facitilies, and was working on a farm in West Virginia, as well as writing new material.
“Treatment is good, getting to deal with a lot of things that even the music didn’t want to,” Molina wrote in a note on the band’s site in May 2012. “I have not given up because you, my friends have not given up on me. I do still need your support however that takes shape, good vibes are worth more than you might think. Finally, there are actually some musical projects on the distant radar screen, but for those who understand, I am taking this in much smaller steps than I’m used to. Keep the lamps trimmed and burning!”
Molina’s music career began in 1996 with Songs: Ohia, a musical project he helmed that featured a rotating cast of collaborators throughout the band’s career. Their last record, 2003’s Magnolia Electric Co., was produced by Steve Albini, and provided the name of Molina’s next band.
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Magnolia Electric Company released three official studio LPs on Secretly Canadian between 2005 and 2009, including an odds-and-ends box set in 2007. His final release as Magnolia Electric Co. was the 2009 LP Josephine. He put out his last album, Autumn Bird Songs, under his own name in 2012 on Graveface.
“We’re going to miss Jason,” Secretly Canadian said in a statement posted on Magnolia Electric Co.’s website. “He was generous. He was a one of a kind. And he had a voice unlike any other.”
In a heartfelt note on Chunklet, the zine’s founder Henry Ownings described his friend Molina as an intense writer but a goofball at heart. “But maybe, just maybe, his music was eluding to what was fighting inside him,” he wrote. “The demons. The ghosts. The pain. The disease.”