Morphine was an American alternative rock group formed by Mark Sandman, Dana Colley, and Jerome Deupree in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1989. After five successful albums and extensive touring, they disbanded after lead vocalist Sandman died of a heart attack onstage in Palestrina, Italy, on July 3, 1999. Founding members have reformed into the band Vapors of Morphine, maintaining much of the original style and sound.
Morphine combined blues and jazz elements with more traditional rock arrangements, giving the band an unusual sound. Sandman sang distinctively in a “deep, laid-back croon”, and his songwriting featured a prominent beat influence. The band themselves coined the label “low rock” to describe their music, which involved “a minimalist, low-end sound that could have easily become a gimmick: a ‘power trio’ not built around the sound of an electric guitar. Instead, Morphine expanded its offbeat vocabulary on each album.”
The band enjoyed positive critical appraisal, but met with mixed results commercially. In the United States the band was embraced and promoted by the indie rock community, including public and college radio stations and MTV’s 120 Minutes, which the band once guest-hosted, but received little support from commercial rock radio and other music television programs. This limited their mainstream exposure and support in their home country, while internationally they enjoyed high-profile success, especially in Belgium, Portugal, France and Australia.
Mark Sandman from Morphine, playing at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis, MO