WGBH < Back to WGBH Register or Login to MyWGBH     |     About WGBH
Jared Bowen
Bridgit Brown
Kris Wilton
Mary Tinti
Scott McLennan
Stacy Buchanan
Contributor Bios

Stacy Buchanan
Boston Remembers Morphine Frontman Mark Sandman
By Stacy Buchanan

June 21, 2012

CAMBRIDGE, MA - In 1989 musicians Mark Sandman and Dana Colley came together to form Morphine, a band whose success spanned a six-album career, and gave birth to a new genre within alternative rock known as “low rock”.

Morphine combined musical elements of blues, jazz, and rock, accompanied by a murky and dark sound that paired with a baritone saxophone, was complete genius. They became one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the ‘90s; highly regarded by indie rock communities across the U.S., and very successful abroad. But their 10-year reign ended in 1999 when frontman Mark Sandman suffered a heart attack while performing at a festival in Italy and passed away at age 46. Fans were crushed, including an entire Boston community.

Sandman was a native -- born and raised in Newton, an alum of the University of Massachusetts, and a resident of Cambridge. He was completely immersed in the local music scene, and on any given night during the ‘90s it wasn’t uncommon to find him frequenting Central Square businesses including The Plough and Stars, T.T. the Bear’s and The Middle East. Now, 10 years later, it’s not uncommon to find myself, on any given night, frequenting these places and finding traces of his presence lining the walls in memoriam. Appropriately, the intersection at Mass Ave and Brookline St. has been renamed Mark Sandman Square.

Shortly after his death, The Boston Phoenix published Morphine, Mark and Memories: Friends and Fans Look Back, a web page chock full of local fans and friends’ Sandman stories. Reading them is bittersweet. I was saddened by his death, but also touched by his reach. Whether he was helping a stranger at a bar get through a rough time, or allowing local musicians to use the recording space in his own home, he was a part of so many lives in the area.

And even after his passing, he’s still here. Friends and family established The Mark Sandman Music Project, a non-profit organization set up to benefit music education programs in the Cambridge public schools.

To further celebrate the life and career of one of the greatest musicians of our time, filmmakers Robert Bralver and David Ferino are releasing Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story, a very personal documentary about the life of Mark Sandman, featuring interviews from former band mates, friends, and family, and a glimpse into the truth about his inner demons.

Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story will be screening at the Brattle Theatre starting Friday, June 22nd, and running until Sunday, July 1st.  (Note: Producer Jeff Broadway will be a special guest at the 7:30pm screening.)

Photo from the film Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story.

Brattle Theater
40 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA  02138
(617) 876-6837


Liz Longley Sings in Harvard Square
WGBH has a new music video channel, bringing you closer to the incredible musicians who come through Boston.

Go to Worcester for the Art
Jared Bowen highly recommends a day trip to view this amazing collection.

Sample Music from Around the World
Marco Werman, host of PRI's The World, hosts a new show called Sound Tracks, exploring music across borders.