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Dr. Rachel Owen, Former Partner of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Dies at 48

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Radiohead fans are in mourning following the passing of Dr. Rachel Owen, an artist and lecturer whose long relationship with band frontman Thom Yorke ended last year.

Owen had been diagnosed with cancer but continued to teach at Pembroke College Oxford in Cambridge, where she served as a retained lecturer. The university shared the news of her passing on Dec. 19, posting an obituary that lauded her career as “an internationally renowned artist – mixing photography and printmaking – and at the same time a scholar in medieval Italian literature.”

The owner of a Ph.D. on the illustrations of the early manuscripts of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Owen devoted a substantial portion of her life’s work to the subject; her curriculum included teaching the text in Italian, and as her Pembroke obituary notes, her students “enjoyed the pleasure and the privilege of a guided tour through the manuscripts” each year — and one of her last projects, a series of prints inspired by the first book, is scheduled for exhibition next year.

As the Daily Telegraph reports, Yorke and Owen met as students at Exeter, and although they led a private life together, it’s widely believed that the end of their relationship exerted a heavy creative impact on Radiohead’s 2016 release A Moon Shaped Pool — a theory supported by, for example, a passage from the track “Daydreaming” in which Yorke repeatedly sings “half my life.”

Owen was 48 at the time of her passing on Dec. 18, and is survived by her two children with Yorke: Noah, 15, and Agnes, 12. As of press time, we were unable to obtain any legally cleared photos of Ms. Owen.

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