Thom Yorke Biography

Songwriter, Environmental Activist, Guitarist, Singer (1968–)
Thom Yorke is the lead singer and songwriter of the English alternative rock band Radiohead, whose hit albums include 'OK Computer' and 'The Bends.'

Who Is Thom Yorke?

Born on October 7, 1968 in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England, Thomas Edward Yorke, better known as Thom Yorke, formed a band while at Abingdon School. After being signed by record company EMI, they named themselves Radiohead and went on to become one of the most successful alternative bands of the 1990s and 2000s.

Early Life

Born on October 7, 1968 in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England, Thomas Edward Yorke, better known as Thom Yorke, picked up at a guitar at the age of 7 and formed his first band at the age of 10. Born with an abnormality in his left eye, Yorke underwent multiple surgeries as a youngster and was often teased by his peers.

At the Abingdon School for Boys, Yorke teamed up with guitarist Ed O'Brien and bassist Colin Greenwood to form a band, which they called On a Friday. Yorke was the lead singer and songwriter. They soon added Phil Selway as a drummer and then Greenwood's younger brother, Jonny, as a harmonica player, keyboardist and guitarist.


When Yorke left to go to University of Exeter, the group disbanded temporarily, but they reunited to record a series of demo tapes. One of the tapes, Manic Hedgehog, attracted attention from the recording company EMI. On the lookout for the next hit grunge band, EMI signed the group in 1991 to a six-album deal. The next year, On a Friday was renamed Radiohead, after a Talking Heads song.

In 1992, EMI released Radiohead's debut EP, Drill, which included three songs that were later included on the band's 1993 debut album, Pablo Honey. "Creep" became Radiohead's first hit single.

In 1995, Radiohead's second album, The Bends, was released to critical acclaim and commercial success. Rolling Stone ranked the album at No. 110 on its "500 Greatest Albums of All-Time" list. Nigel Godrich, an engineer on The Bends, went on to become the band's producer.

In the 1990s, Radiohead opened for Alanis Morissette and R.E.M., and Yorke became friends with R.E.M.'s lead singer, Michael Stipe. The band also released a collection of B-sides from The Bends as an EP, My Iron Lung. But it was their next album, OK Computer, that catapulted them into international stardom.

According to Rolling Stone, "With the release of 1997's OK Computer, Radiohead were among the most closely watched bands of the decade, drawing on influences as varied as Queen, R.E.M. and Miles Davis." The album, which hit No. 1 on the U.K. album charts, put pressure on the band to come out with a follow-up hit. Yorke experienced writer's block and depression around this time.

For their next album, Kid A, Yorke's voice was "mechanized and mutilated," and turned into "something distant, alien and largely inhuman," according to Rolling Stone. The band's 2003 album, Hail to the Thief, reflected the apocalyptic post-9/11 world.

Once their contract with EMI expired, Radiohead made a revolutionary decision to let fans decide how much they wanted to pay for a digital copy of their 2007 album, In Rainbows. In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked Yorke No. 66 on its list of "100 Greatest Singers of All Time," calling him "one of the most influential singers of his generation."

Demonstrating they still had plenty of music left to create, Radiohead in 2011 released the Grammy-nominated The King of the Limbs, and followed in 2016 with the well-received A Moon Shaped Pool.

In early 2018, it was revealed that the group was mounting a legal battle against American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey, on the grounds that a chord progression from her song "Get Free" was lifted from "Creep." Ironically, Radiohead had been sued for "Creep" after its release by the songwriting team of Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood, who claimed that it too closely resembled their 1970s composition for The Hollies, "The Air That I Breathe."

Other Projects

Along with his acclaimed work with Radiohead, Yorke has branched out to other projects. He released his first solo album, The Eraser, in 2006, and his second, Tomorrow's Modern Boxes, in 2014.

In the fall of 2009, Yorke teamed up with Flea, the bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. For a year, the group performed without a name before finally calling themselves Atoms for Peace.

Personal Life

Yorke met his longtime partner Rachel Owen at Exeter University. The couple had two children, Noah and Agnes, before announcing their separation in 2015. The following year, Rachel died from cancer.

An active environmentalist, Yorke supported Friends of the Earth's climate change campaign, "The Big Ask."

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