Written by: Alex Green
Jessi Zazu, the lead singer of the beloved indie rock country outfit has died.
Zazu, who was just 28, succumbed to cervical cancer Sept 12.
Although the Nashville band called it a day over a year ago, over the course of their decade-long career, they put out three fabulous albums, the last one being 2013’s Blur The Line.
“They played country music with smarts, sophistication and nerve,” SEM’s Matt Sloan observed after taking in a Chicago gig several years ago. “Zazu is a singer of heart, soul and muscle,” he went on. “I can’t think of a more captivating performer–she’s the real deal.”
Of her illness, NPR recalled: “In December 2016, she first publicly shared her diagnosis, which had come shortly after Those Darlins disbanded at the end of 2015. The original diagnosis was cervical cancer caused by papillomavirus, or HPV, which then metastasized. In the YouTube video in which she announced her medical diagnosis and ensuing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Zazu shaved her hair off, saying that it was a way to “celebrate this new chapter.”
Zazu’s bandmates posted the following statement on Facebook:
From the desk of Linwood and Those Darlins HQ:
Yesterday I said goodbye to my best friend, long time partner in crime and hero, Jessi Zazu Wariner.
She maintained a sense of humor and a commanding presence up until and through her final moments. She was in the company of those who cared deeply about her and who she cared deeply about.
Shout-out to your contagious spirit that inspired all who crossed it. Shout-out to the creative dynamo who continued to flourish even against insurmountable odds. Shout-out to all the little triumphs over the last 16 months. Shout-out to the ridiculous van rides and the fights and to the fact that we never turned our backs on one another over the last decade. Shout-out to the dreams we made and the ones left to come. And shout-out to all of you who have supported her until the end.
In a moving tribute, NPR’s Ann Powers wrote:
I knew Jessi as a friend who instantly embraced me as a family member, and a loving mentor to my drummer daughter, Bebe, whose own budding rock and roll career Jessi inspired and unfailingly supported. She rarely missed a show by the teenage bands she coached at rock camp, even after she became ill with the cancer that would eventually take her life.
More remarkably, she never stopped creating. In her last year, she produced enough drawings, ceramics and other artworks to stage two major exhibitions, recorded an as-yet unreleased album, and kept coming up with new projects. The last time I saw her, just a week before her death, she told me she was ready to start a new book of illustrations of the girl groups she loved so much. Jessi was also an activist, turning the energies that had already fed the feminist core of the rock scene she occupied toward anti-racist work after she witnessed the work of the Black Lives Matter movement. Fundamentally, she was a spark. She started things, connected people, lit the ignition in our sometimes tired minds and hearts. Her slogan was “Ain’t Afraid” — and she wasn’t, because there was no darkness that her brilliance couldn’t cut through, or at least make light enough to live in. The fiery particle that was the gift she gave us will never burn out.