When Morphine frontman and Newton native Mark Sandman collapsed mid-set onstage in Palestrina, Italy, and died shortly thereafter in 1999 at the age of 46, he left behind a band that, after a forming in Cambridge a decade earlier, was likely just about to catch a break. The trio Morphine — Sandman on two-string bass, Dana Colley on baritone sax, and Jerome Deupree — later Billy Conway — on drums — formed after Sandman left the blues-rock band Treat Her Right. Morphine’s first album, 1992’s Good, was released on Accurate; two more records — ’93’s Cure for Pain and ’95’s Yes followed on Rykodisc. The trio signed to DreamWorks — a definite sign of the big time — and released the critical, but not commercial, success, Like Swimming in 1997. A second DreamWorks album, The Night was almost ready to go when Sandman passed away; the album was released posthumously. Morphine broke up, though Colley and Conway formed Morphine Orchestra to celebrate Sandman’s life and the band’s music, as well as to raise funds for the Mark Sandman Music Education Fund (now called the Mark Sandman Music Project). The City of Cambridge renamed the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Brookline Street — right outside the Middle East club/restaurant — Mark Sandman Square.
(by Ed Symkus and Stephen Haag)