Thom Yorke opened up about his ex-partner’s death on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, as The Guardian points out. His 23-year relationship to artist Rachel Owens ended in 2015, and she died of cancer the following year. They had two children together.
“When the kids’ mum died, it was a very difficult period and we went through a lot,” Yorke said in the interview. “It was very hard. She suffered a great deal and my ambition is to make sure that we have come out of it all right, and I hope that’s what’s happening. I’m lucky now because I have a new partner who has come and brought a light into all of it, which has taken a great deal of strength. And really if all that’s OK … If I’m able to make some music that expresses all that and is still important to people, that’s more than I can ask for.”
It’s the most candid Yorke has been about her death publicly, though the band did dedicate the 2017 OK Computer reissues to Owen.
Elsewhere in the program, Yorke described himself as a “hypocrite” for campaigning for climate change while having a large carbon footprint as part of flying around the world and being in a band. “The thing I’ve always struggled somewhat with is that if I’m campaigning on climate change, I’m someone who has to fly for my work, so, boom, I’m a hypocrite,” Yorke said.
Desert Island Discs is also a show where a musician picks a handful of songs, books, and other luxuries that they would take with them if stranded on a desert island. His picks included Talking Heads’ “Born Under Punches,” Neil Young’s “After The Goldrush,” R.E.M.’s “Talk About The Passion,” and Nina Simone’s “Lilac Wine,” among others. You can hear his breakdown of that here alongside everything else.