Rob Laakso, Kurt Vile and the Violators Member, Dies at 44

Rob Laakso, guitarist and instrumentalist for Kurt Vile and the Violators, has died at 44. The musician’s wife, Mamie-Claire Cornelius, confirmed that he died on Thursday, May 4, after struggling with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer in which malignant cells form in the bile duct.


“I am lost without you but I promise I’ll find our way and I promise to make you proud,” Cornelius wrote on Instagram. “Thank you for giving me the most beautiful life, the most loving and beautiful children and for believing in me every day. You are the light of my life and the only slightest sliver of peace I have is that you are no longer in pain. We’ll be dreaming of you every night until we see you again.”

Laakso’s family had launched a GoFundMe page in order to pay for his medical treatment, but following his death, Cornelius provided an update to those who had supported the fundraising effort. “I am absolutely shattered to share with you that our beloved Rob passed away quickly and peacefully yesterday afternoon,” she wrote on May 5. “After praying for a miracle every day since he was diagnosed my prayers recently changed to a peaceful home departure surrounded by love. I realize now every day we had together was a miracle.” As of press time, the GoFundMe has raised more than $98,000.

“Please go live life and try something new for him when you feel an ache creeping in. Go make the most of it,” Cornelius urged readers on the GoFundMe page. “He pushed through so much just to sit and bask in the joy of our children running through bubbles in the backyard … that was absolute living to him in our most recent days. It doesn’t have to be grand, just enjoy the present deeply. All of our love and gratitude to you.”

Vile himself remembered his friend and bandmate in a long, emotional post shared on Instagram on Monday. “Tributes are never easy but this one is just too close to the bone I guess,” he captioned a photo of the two together. “Yeah he was quiet but there was so much to him. Musical genius. Recording whizz. Best husband and father.”

Laakso became an official member of Kurt Vile and the Violators in 2011 following the departure of War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel, though the guitarist spent years with preceding working with Vile on solo material as well as projects for the Violators. Laakso’s co-producer and instrumentalist credits with Vile or the Violators include 2009’s God Is Saying This to You…, 2011’s Smoke Ring for My Halo, 2013’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze, 2015’s B’lieve I’m Going Down…, 2018’s Bottle It In and 2022’s Watch My Moves.

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