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Thom Yorke Discusses Ex-Partner’s Death on BBC Radio 4: “We Went Through a Lot”

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 04: Thom Yorke of Radiohead performs at Emirates Old Trafford on July 4, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Andrew Benge/Redferns)

Thom Yorke recently sat down with BBC Radio 4 for their recurring Desert Island Discs program where in addition to discussing his favorite songs by Talking Heads, Neil Young, and R.E.M., he also opened up about the recent passing of his longtime partner, the Welsh visual artist and academic Rachel Owen, as The Guardian points out. Yorke and Owen were romantically involved since the songwriter’s earliest days with Radiohead, and the pair had two children together before splitting up in 2015. The following year, she died of cancer at age 48.

“When the kids’ mum died, it was a very difficult period and we went through a lot. It was very hard,” he told the interviewer. “She suffered a great deal and my ambition is to make sure that we have come out of it all right, and I hope that’s what’s happening.”

Yorke has remained largely quiet about the circumstances surrounding her death, even after dedicating Radiohead’s 2017 OK Computer reissue OKNOTOK to her.

“I’m lucky now because I have a new partner who has come and brought a light into all of it, which has taken a great deal of strength. And really if all that’s OK…If I’m able to make some music that expresses all that and is still important to people, that’s more than I can ask for.”

Yorke also mentioned his philanthropic and activist work, calling himself a “hypocrite” for preaching about global warming while jetting around the world as a renowned musician. “The thing I’ve always struggled somewhat with, is if I’m campaigning on climate change, I’m someone who has to fly for my work so…I’m a hypocrite. I totally agree I’m a hypocrite but…what do you want to do about it?”

Desert Island Discs is a long-running BBC program that asks famous musicians what songs and books they’d take to a deserted island with them. Yorke of course picked deep cuts from acts like Squarepusher, Scott Walker, Nina Simone, and more. Check out the full broadcast here via BBC Radio 4.