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How did Van Conner die? Bassist and co-founder of Screaming Trees dies at age 55

'Please join me in lowering the flannel flag to half-mast today while we reflect and celebrate the life and legacy of Van Conner,' bandmate Mark Pickerel said
Van Conner died on January 17 from an 'extended illness' (Facebook/ScreamingTrees)
Van Conner died on January 17 from an 'extended illness' (Facebook/ScreamingTrees)

ELLENSBURG, WASHINGTON: Van Conner, the co-founder and bassist for the hard rock band Screaming Trees, died on Tuesday, January 17, 2023, at the age of 55 from an "extended illness". Conner's brother and member of the band Gary Lee Conner shared the news of his untimely death on social media.

On Wednesday, January 18, Gary wrote on his Facebook page, "Van Conner bassist and song writer of Screaming Trees died last night of an extended illness at 55. It was pneumonia that got him in the end. He was one of the closest friends I ever had and I loved him immensely. I will miss him forever and ever and ever…" Screaming Trees was formed in 1984 in rural Ellensburg, Washington, by Van Conner, Gary Lee Conner, Mark Lanegan, who passed away in 2022, and drummer Mark Pickerel. The band's psychedelia-influenced sound fit in well with a number of other independent bands of the time. They had chart-topping songs, with 'Nearly Lost You' and 'Dollar Bill' on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Airplay. Their most commercially successful album 'Dust' was released in 1996 and it landed at position 134 on the Billboard 200, according to Deadline. The band's final album titled 'Last Words: The Final Recordings' was released 11 years after the band split up in 2000.


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Gary's original message was reposted on the band's official Facebook page, where it received hundreds of comments from fans. One grieving fan wrote, "I truly enjoyed the music of Screaming Trees. Another gone too soon. It saddens me to hear of your loss, our communities loss. Forever grateful for the music you shared with us. Sending thoughts of healing and love to you all."


Another wrote, "Sincere condolences to the Conner family. Van’s songs enhanced life and eased us through the hard times." One fan, who was saddened by the news, said, "So sorry to hear such awful news and for your loss. The music that you created as the Screaming Trees and after brought So much joy to So many people. My thoughts will be with you and your family."

Seattle KISW host Taryn Daly wrote, "Incredibly sad to learn of Van Conner's passing. I had a blast getting to know him these past few years. He was always so kind to me, and we could talk for hours about music and life. The last time we were together, he and Brad were jamming with friends at our place and I'll treasure that vibe always. Sending love to his family, his friends and all the Trees fans. RIP."


Screaming Trees drummer Pickerel posted a lengthy message about the impact Van had on him. He wrote, "Please join me in lowering the flannel flag to half-mast today while we reflect and celebrate the life and legacy of Van Conner, who passed away yesterday, at the age of 55."

Pickerel also mentioned Lanegan's death in his post, noting, "I know we're just a month shy of celebrating the one-year anniversary of the loss of our singer, the extraordinarily talented—Mark Lanegan, and it is with such a heavy heart that I find myself participating in so many conversations regarding the untimely passing of both he and Van and the difficult and sad circumstances surrounding their premature departures."


"But I ask you to focus on the great gifts they both generously bestowed upon us. Please enjoy some Screaming Trees, Valis, Solomon Grundy, Dinosaur Jr., or some of Mark Lanegan’s solo works today as you celebrate their lives and the creative imprint they’ve left behind," Pickerel said in the heartfelt post.