Death Is Not The End: A Mixtape For Marques Gaines


When I first met Marques, things in my life were changing. I was rapidly coming out of my shell and becoming the kind of person I’d always wanted to be, and I was just starting to see Katie, the girl I’m marrying this September. I hadn’t met any of Katie’s friends from Chicago at that point, which made me a bit nervous when she said that she wanted me to meet her good friend Marques, describing him as her male equivalent. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but that feeling dissipated the minute I walked into a Manhattan gay bar and shook his hand. Instant connections are extremely rare for me: friendships happen over time, gradually. With Marques, though, it was like lightning striking in a crowded room. The coolest guy in the vicinity wanted to talk to me in a hurry about bands, books, music festivals, mutual friends, the scene in New York.


That first weekend was a wild one full of dancing, lost and found IDs, more dancing, more drinking, a lot of smiles, and Marques waking up confused one morning after finding himself on my couch in hilarious fashion. Our hangouts were always like this: filled with fun, joy, thoughtful conversation, and — for lack of a better term — hijinks. The first time I came to Chicago as Katie’s boyfriend instead of just some guy visiting, he pushed through a crowd to give me a giant hug. He was, predictably, wearing a tank top and preparing to buy me a beer and a shot of Malort.

I was always worried I might be a burden to Marques, or that he was just putting up with me, but I learned quickly that Marques loved me as much as I loved him, that he was full of love for pretty much anyone he came into contact with. He made me want to be more like him every day, and this feels relevant now more than ever. When I proposed to Katie a year ago, it was a no-brainer to ask Marques to be our officiant. He told us he wasn’t going to do any more weddings, but we were the exception to this. We’re getting married on what would have been his 33rd birthday. I can only hope he’ll be dancing up above along with us that night.

I’ve had to write a lot of obituaries for friends and family over the last few years, more than I probably should have at this age. I’ve worked hard on them because someone had to eulogize them and capture their essence. I struggled over words. I’ve been thinking a lot about Marques in the week since some fucking asshole murdered him in Chicago, and I’ve been looking at his Facebook wall several times a day. I didn’t need to find the right words. Hundreds of people just like me already had.

Still, I always have to get these things out of my system. Marques loved a lot of the same things I did. We both loved to party, but we both read books and wrote fiction in our free time, which is something I hope people remember about him. I hope to read whatever he left behind. We also geeked out about music every time we spoke, and I couldn’t help but make this mixtape in his memory, full of songs that will always remind me of him.I love you, and I miss you like crazy, Marques.

DOWNLOAD: Songs For Marques


1. Sampha & Jessie Ware – “Valentine”

I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day, and I usually post this track on Facebook. Today is also the day that, a few hours after doing so, Marques would usually comment in annoyed fashion that I beat him to posting it. Great minds think alike.

2. Father John Misty – “The Night That Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt.”

The last time that I saw Marques was in August. After he got cut from work at some awful hour, we went bar-hopping and rapidly caught up on our lives. He began to lament that there wasn’t a lot of great music in 2015 (even though I disagreed), and it led to us talking about our mutual admiration for Father John Misty, a dude we both felt embarrassed to like but did just the same. At one point I mentioned that the opening lyrics on this song were my favorite, and it led to Marques, Katie and I singing about half of this track together at the Owl.

3. The National – “Apartment Story”

Marques really loved the National. In fact, his voice sounds a lot like Matt Berninger when he sings. Katie once told me a story that he used to sing the song while hiding behind their pal Cooper, who looked like Berninger, to make it seem like a disarmingly spot-on cover. The image always cracked me up.

4. Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”

I’d been told that I couldn’t make this mix without this song, and I’d avoided listening to Taylor Swift’s latest album until now. It might be Marques’s final triumph that I both listened to it and liked it.

5. The Smiths – “This Charming Man”

Anyone who has hit a jukebox with Marques knows that he fucking loved the Smiths, and that going to Smiths night was one of his favorite things in the world. I don’t need to explain further.

6. Kendrick Lamar – “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”

Like anyone worth talking to, Marques loved Kendrick Lamar. I wanted to put “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst” instead, but it was so overwhelmingly sad to hear in the context. Sometimes you need a happier memory.

7. LCD Soundsystem – “Dance Yrself Clean”

Like me, Marques worshipped at the altar of James Murphy. One night, we closed down a bar called NEO, and while we were about to leave early before hearing the opening notes of this track and danced our asses off. Many of Katie’s memories of Marques revolve around the two of them filling the jukebox at Estelle’s with LCD Soundsystem, too.

8. Beyonce – “Formation”

This was the last song that Marques ever posted on Facebook, and it makes me so happy that he got to hear one last banger from Queen Bey. It also makes me smile that he had already texted people that infamous line “I’ve got hot sauce in my bag, swag.”

9. Solange – “Losing You”

Really, though, it was the other Knowles sister that Marques adored, and rightfully so. When Katie and I first moved to New Orleans, he said “you have to become best friends with Solange for me.” We’re still working on it.

10. Robyn – “Call Your Girlfriend”

During one of Marques’s two magical visits to New York, we went to a big warehouse party for the CMJ festival, which was a fun bit of dancing with some great emerging artists. Really, though, the party started when we met some of Katie’s work friends at a gay bar, took over the speakers, and played a ton of Robyn. It was incredible. Katie asked that I include this song because it was the first Robyn track she heard, and it was through Marques.

11. Tanlines – “Real Life”

Right before I met him, Marques had just seen one of my favorite Brooklyn bands ever, and apparently it was such a religious experience that he had to write on the band’s Facebook wall and apologize for touching them, referring to them as Mr. Tan (Mr. Lines?).

12. Prince – “I Wanna Be Your Lover”

For a while, my yearly tradition was coming to Chicago for the Pitchfork Music Festival, and that meant trying to find something for my Internet nerd friends to do at night most of the time. One year, Marques showed up like light at the end of the tunnel, dragged us all to Prince and Michael Jackson night at Beauty Bar, and danced the night away fueled by shots of Malort.

13. ForteBowie – “Little League Love”

That night involving warehouses and CMJ, we saw a bunch of amazing acts that went on to be pretty famous, namely Ryan Hemsworth and Flume. Still, Marques fell the hardest for a rapper from his native Atlanta named ForteBowie, and I always thought of him whenever I listened to the guy’s excellent EP from there.

14. David Bowie – “Starman”

Marques never stopped mentioning to Katie and I that he loved the fact that we named our dog after David Bowie. Marques always liked the right music, and it comes as no surprise that he’d love another person we all wish was still around.

15. Blood Orange & Nelly Furtado – “Hadron Collider”

One of the last times I heard from Marques was right before I moved to New Orleans. He knew that we were seeing Blood Orange live at the Apollo right before I hit the road, and when the news broke that this song was being debuted and sold as a cassette, he frantically wrote on my Facebook wall asking me to get it for him. I didn’t see the message until I was on my way home, but I’m glad that the song made its way online, and that he got to hear it.

16. Beach House – “Used To Be”

Beach House was the first band that I talked to Marques about, and this track feels like an appropriate end note. I already miss the way things used to be. I always will. I’ll try to keep him alive by trying to be more like him, by loving my life and living it. Katie will too. If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll be more like Marques.


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