Jason Molina, frontman of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., has died. Molina, almost totally absent from the public eye since 2009, had been in poor health in recent years. According to Chunklet, he died Saturday as a result of organ failure related to alcoholism.
Molina was born in Lorain, Ohio and played in various heavy-metal groups in Cleveland before striking out on his own. He made several lo-fi home recordings under various names, including Songs: Albian, Songs: Radix, and Songs: Unitas, before settling on Songs: Ohia in 1996. The alt-country-tinged and self-titled Songs: Ohia, which fans refer to as The Black Album, was released in 1997 on Secretly Canadian, the label he stayed with his entire career.
Molina was noted for his prolificacy. He constantly released singles, full-lengths, and EPs right up until his last record, 2012’s Autumn Bird Songs. He released three full-length records in 2000 alone, and dabbled in multiple genres, including bluegrass, gospel, and more straightforward rock.
In 2003, Songs: Ohia released Magnolia Electric Co., which marked a departure from his sparer solo material. Engineered by Steve Albini, the LP was made with a full band that recorded live in studio. It draws heavily from a ‘60s and ‘70s roots rock sound, but also pulls just a little from Molina’s metal past.
While on tour in support of that record, Molina announced he was renaming his group Magnolia Electric Co., and would be drafting different players to tour and record with him.
In 2011, Chunklet’s Henry Owings wrote a post about Molina’s health problems on his site. “Where In The Hell Is Jason Molina” detailed the singer’s stints in rehab and increasingly disjointed behavior, as well as Owings’ fear that he would eventually drink himself into the grave.
Molina spent the last couple of years struggling with illness and debt due to medical bills, all while working on a family farm in West Virginia. In a post on Chunklet this morning, Owings wrote that Molina “cashed out on Saturday night in Indianapolis with nothing but a cell phone in his pocket with only his grandmother’s number on it.”