Screaming Trees Bassist Van Conner Dies at 55

He was a co-founding member of the innovative grunge outfit

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jan 18, 2023

Van Conner — co-founding bassist and songwriter for Washington proto-grunge heroes Screaming Trees — has died. He was 55.

Conner passed away yesterday (January 18) after an extended illness and case of pneumonia.

The news was shared by brother and bandmate Gary Lee Conner on social media. "He was one of the closest friends I ever had and I loved him immensely," Lee wrote. "I will miss him forever and ever and ever."


Three days ago, Lee shared on Facebook that his brother was unwell, writing: 

He has been making progress this last week but we nearly lost him. Last year he was in a coma two different times. Once due to emergency stomach surgery and the other because of Covid and a blood clot in his lung. He has been going downhill since then, not being able to walk and finally being confined to bed. Just after new years his liver almost finished him off. He's still pretty out of it but he's coming back again. It's going to be a long road for him but his family is giving him a lot of support. He has many more songs to write...

Conner's death comes less than a year after that of Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan, who died at his home in Killarney, Ireland, last February.

Conner, Lee, Lanegan and drummer Mark Pickerel formed the band in Ellensburg, WA — a small town a little more than 100 miles from Seattle — in 1984. After the release of their debut EP Other World and LP Clairvoyance, they landed a contract with SST Records for their contributions to the grunge movement, drawing on elements of psychedelic and hard rock.

Screaming Trees made their debut on the label with the release of their sophomore album, Even If and Especially When, in 1987, and released two more albums on SST before going major in 1991 with Uncle Anesthesia, which was produced by Soundgarden's Chris Cornell. 1992 follow-up Sweet Oblivion spawned their biggest hit, "Nearly Lost You."

Screaming Trees disbanded in 2000. In 2011, they released the late-'90s material for what would've been their eighth album as Last Words: The Final Recordings.

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