I dont blame people for thinking mark sandman used drugs.. his band was called morphine, and songs such as candy, like swimming and cure for pain are obviously about hard/ addictive drugs, which indicates he could have had experiences with them

Michael Azerrad

Good thinking. Likewise, I don't blame people for thinking the members of Nirvana were Hindu, or that the members of the Smiths were all named Smith, or that the members of the Eagles can fly.

Teresa the Nurse

*LOL* Michael Azerrad

According to the American Heart Association, in 2011, 382,800 experienced sudden cardiac arrest. Only 33% of those people had symptoms within one hour of death. So what happened to Mark is not at all unusual.

Source: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/125/1/e2.full#sec-130


A first-rate singer-songwriter. I played a lot of Morphine, as a college DJ in the 1990s.

For a variety of reasons, including genetically-high LDL levels, people can have heart attacks at an early age. And the symptoms aren't always the textbook severe chest pain. Some other artists who lost their lives to MIs include Joe Strummer, Robert Palmer, and Paul Young.


morphine refers to the god of dreams not the drug,so no,thank you for your attention,good night we love you all,and the milion goes to,nobody of you....hahahahahahahhahhahahahha

Michael Azerrad

Well, no, morphine is a drug and that is what the band was named after, Sandman's coy claims to the contrary. The drug itself is named for Morpheus. If the band really wanted to say their music was like Morpheus, then they would have called the band Morpheus, or the adjectival form Morphean.
It's OK, you can name your band after a drug and not actually use the drug. Only literal-minded cretins would believe otherwise. By their logic, one would have to assume that the members of the New Jersey Devils hockey team are satanists.


Nice article. Glad to see that someone has tried to authoritatively set the record straight on his death and the mystery that surrounded it. Mark's presence over the 20 years I've lived and played music in Boston is missed to this day, by many. Its kind of hard to see him heavily abusing substances and being a hardworking as he was, honestly. He clearly partied and enjoyed the nightlife. But,I don't think he had the patience to put up with BS that accompanies fatal narcotic addictions.


good thinking,the drug is named after Morpheus,so its the same it just expands the conversation into something more deep or Joda kind of speech


I saw Mark Sandman play about 300 shows in the Boston area over 10 years. I also chatted with him here and there, before and after shows, at parties. Mark was not a druggie. That simple. A drink, a toke, yeah, drug mania -absolutely not.


Thanks so much for posting this. I saw "Cure for Pain" yesterday at the Brattle in Cambridge, and thought that Mark's death was kind of glossed over. My dad had a cardiac arrest, but he was 73. No one expects it in a relatively young man (and I was stunned that Sandman was in his mid-40s, thinking that he appeared to be quite younger). His former roommate talks of Mark smoking weed throughout the day, and I tried to reconcile that with what his girlfriend said about him not using drugs. I figured it was a one-time habit that he'd outgrown by the time Morphine started getting a lot of attention. You can't front and co-manage a band like that, churn out music and tour while under the influence of hard drugs; you just can't. I never thought that the band name suggested that they were all addicts.

I didn't know that he'd been stabbed in the chest either.

I was lucky to see Morphine play twice before Mark died. There's been no band like them since and it's hard to wonder about what might have been...but that could be said of so many bands too.


I, too, saw the movie at the Brattle. And yes, its treatment of certain topics is...sparse.

Here, I think, is why.

The movie was only made possible by the co-operation of Mark's family. That co-operation was based on a hope that it would help Guitelle Sandman come to terms with the loss of 3 sons at the end of her life.

Unfortunately, Guitelle Sandman contracted pancreatic cancer near the end of 2009 and she passed away in March, 2010. After her death, there were some requests made to the directors that they wished for certain interview footage to be removed. And I believe the directors complied with their wishes.

At the same time, the legal ownership of certain other footage was successfully contested...and I believe that this footage was also removed.

I very much doubt that Sandman's stabbing contributed in any way to his death. Physical damage to the heart would have lead to a cardiac event very quickly, and almost certainly would have been assessed during his treatment.

Sandman was a chain-smoker, 46 years old, exhausted, and attempting to perform in 100 degree heat. I traveled to Palestina in August, 2001 and though it is some 50km from Rome the air quality is quite poor. And I believe those were the sole contributors to his death.

Oh...and if drugs had been suspected the police would have ordered an autopsy because that is there mandate from the Ministry of the Interior


I never knew Mark but I knew friends of his, and they told me -- before his death -- that he was a pretty heavy pot smoker in addition to the cigarettes. I have also read that the chances of having a heart attack increase something like sixfold in the hour after ingesting marijuana. So while hard drugs may not have played a role in Mark's death, if he had a pre-show joint in Palestrina on a hot night with lousy air quality, a couple of weeks after a minor cardiac incident... that could have pushed him over the edge physically.

Anyway, thanks for writing this and thanks for quoting my Morphine piece.

Teresa the nurse from Oregon

The LOL was for the analogy to thinking that the members of Nirvana were Hindu. Not sure why you think that's weird. Perhaps you thought I was referring to the original post.

You are correct that sudden cardiac death is unexplained, Michael. Except for this: we do know some people with a genetic predisposition and/or lifestyle-related risk factors, in certain circumstances, will suddenly die when plaque in the coronary arteries ruptures, causing accumulation of platelets and thrombus formation, cutting off blood flow to the myocardium, starving it of oxygen. Which leads to a non-viable cardiac rhythm, usually ventricular fibrillation. Few people survive this.

But yeah, otherwise, it's a complete mystery.


I wish I found him in another life where I could be his Sabine. Damn, he, his voice and all about him was so sexy ...!

Toni E

Mark was stabbed while driving a cab. last fare of the night and a bad decision to pick up some shady characters. The wound was in his gut leaving a tear in his diaphragm that ripped open a year or so later and put him back in the hospital for major surgery, but it wasn't related to his heart. However on an energetic level, he had his heart broken by both of his brother's deaths. He turned it all into art and left it for us. What an amazing and uncompromising talent.


I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes after watching Cure for Pain--I was blown away to discover it on Amazon instant play--I still listen to them religiously. I thought the documentary hit a deep emotional nerve, especially when considering the enormous loss Mark had gone through--burying two brothers--and yet he still soldiered on to make incredible, one-of-a-kind music. Sabine, Dana, Billy, Jerome, his folks: so honest and beautiful in their tribute...You can feel that their almost still in a sense of shock...It never ends, you just learn to live with and when it comes up, man, the pain is as sharp as the die you lose someone you love...I really loved that Mike Watt was in the doc too, a great musician but someone with deep sensitivity for what it feels like to lose a band mate brother...Ben Harper too was wonderful in his total honesty and expression of unabashed awe of Mark and Morphine's genius... Man, that sound! That morphine LOW rock sound! Every song is a gem! What a gift their music was to us all...Ever grateful...I'm out

Anton Verdonk

In 2000,working as a roadmanager I met Morphine's roadmanager in London.He told me what a nightmare this whole story was and how he flew to the States with the corpse of Mark.If somebody can know what was goin'on that day and tour it is him.For now I will let him have his privacy.After all there is the code of the road....Cheers!

Roland Rachmann

I knew Mark in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Saw Treat Her Right about a dozen times and Morphine one or two. Hung out with Mark and other musicians in his circle. It was clear Mark did not do drugs, and people around him who used drugs kept it on the down-low. His disapproval was never spoken, but very palpable. Got to say he always looked very strong and healthy in those years also.


Great essay-- thanks so much for sharing. I saw Morphine play at the Middle East the night they signed onto Rykodisc. Happy days, way back when, way back there in Bawwstun. I've been in "a mood" lately and listening to the "Good" album on repeat for the last two days, and this morning I wanted to finally read up about whatever really happened to one of the most unique musicians in rock history-- thanxx for clearing it up. Found your post because of Google-imaging that amazing photograph of the three on the roof. Wow. Love and peace from L.A. xLindaV.


Great post, Mr Azerrad. I remember being aware of one or two of their tunes back in the late 90's that I had heard on classic/alt rock radio here in Nashville at the time, but I wasn't much into them then. 'Morphine' was an intriguing band name though. It seemed to fit their sound perfectly, especially considering the singer's name, Sandman.

I was curious when I discovered that to be his real name... and even more so when I heard that he had died somewhere overseas while on tour. I suppose, based on that little bit of information, I had assumed it to be the result of a drug OD, and didnt think much about it again in the years since.

So, after hearing one of their songs on internet radio this week I was intrigued anew, did some searching and found some fascinating history about Mark and the band, which is how I found this article. I just watched the 'Cure for Pain' documentary, which was fucking great, and ended up listening to 'Candy', 'Buena' and a few more on youtube which I instantly loved. He was a great vocalist and I now fully appreciate that low-end sound they created. He played slide with a 2 stringed bass... no shit, amazing.

I still have more to listen to, as I feel like I've got a 'new' band to delve into now... which is gold to an old, cynical music fan like myself.

Thanks for addressing how he died and what might have caused it. Still intriguing.


"The word 'Morphine' comes from the word 'Morpheus,' who is the god of dreams, and that kind appealed to us as a concept...I've heard there's a drug called 'morphine' but that's not where we're coming from...we were dreaming, Morpheus comes into our dreams...and we woke up and started this band...we're all wrapped up in these dream messages, and we were compelled to start this band." [14]

Jack Mekon

I never thought "Cure for Pain," despite its title, is primarily about drug use. Mark had many tough times in his life, some of them deeply personal, and he rarely spoke about them. (Amen to him for that.) The way you try to learn about his pain is to examine, really examine, his lyrics. I always believed, and still believe, that "Cure for Pain" is about emotional pain and is in no way merely a "druggie" song. The chorus, with my interpretation added: "Someday, there'll be a cure for [emotional and psychological] pain. That's the day I throw my drugs away." Yes, he figuratively suggests drug use, but it's not drug use for drug use's sake; it's to banish certain, personal, human misery that people--in this case, him--experience. I also suspect that he wrote and sang these songs for personal release. He never seems angry or vindictive through his lyrics--I would guess that it was beneficial to him to get it out and off his chest, like Morissette's "You Oughtta Know."
Look at "You Speak My Language," "I'm Free Now," "In Spite of Me," "The Jury" (brilliant composition), "Radar," "All Your Way," "I Had My Chance," "Gone for Good"--heck, about two-thirds of the album "Yes"--"Take Me with You" and more, and see if there isn't deep pain reflected in those songs. I'm sure Mark didn't object to the drug reference in his band's name, but I doubt it was his primary influence in selecting that name.


Cure for Pain was a direct reference to drug use: "Someday there'll be a cure for pain. That's the day I throw my drugs away." It is not at all naive or assumptive to think he did drugs, and it's not an insult. Drugs can be great when done right. Lots of amazing musicians do drugs and write about it such as Layne Staley, Grace Slick, Jimi, Jim Morrison...

Not surprising that he didn't do them though. Lots of very amazing musicians do not.

Theoprastus Bombastus von Hoenheim

I don't know if hard drug use contributed to his death, but it definitely contributed to his life.
With a name like Sandman, the band name Morphine makes sense, and I was hip to that as soon as I saw it. Morphine is a distillation of Morpheus, ie dreams. Makes sense for a guy named Sandman to think this way.
But, if you listen to his music, and you hear people close to him saying he didn't use hard drugs, you know at least someone is lying. I would not believe he didn't use unless someone sent me back in time and Mark told me, personally. He did use. He told us. In detail.


The last gig MS made from the beginning to the end as by Morphine planned was in Portugal. Two days after that concert he passed away in the middle of a gig in Italy.
In Portugal there is music press, and Blitz is the most distinguished title. It was first a newspaper, but now is a magazine. Almost 4 decades since first publication.
There is a journalist who closely deprived with MS on the last but one time he was in Portugal. They travelled together as MS took somedays off in vacation, because they became friends.
The journalist told then some information to the press, regarding MS, his death and is last days in Portugal. This is the link: https://blitz.pt/principal/update/2019-01-06-Os-amigos-em-Portugal-de-Mark-Sandman-dos-Morphine
«Calado would be with the band on the eve of the departure for the fateful concert in Italy and, when asked about Mark's “consumption habits”, reveals that “he always smoked several things”, but that on the trip through the Alentejo he had confided that he had stopped using drugs. “I wanted to have a clear head to be able to make a change in the Morphine's music”. Even so, and according to Nuno Calado, everything indicates that Mark Sandman used cocaine on the night of the concert at Praça Sony [in 1999, a few days before he died], at Parque das Nações: «As I know, he felt bad tonight".»

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