Time Will Be Kind: R.I.P. Lorna Donley, DA! Lead Singer


An old press photo of DA! Donley is furthest on the right.
  • An old press photo of DA! Donley is furthest on the right.

We at RFT Music were startled to see the news on Facebook that Chicago musician Lorna Donley passed away on Monday after what has been described as a brief, sudden illness.

Donley was the lead singer and bassist of DA!, whose stark, chilly post-punk sound was unique to Chicago's early-1980s underground scene. Most recently, Donley worked as a librarian in the Chicago Public Library system.

DA! released a seven-inch single, "Dark Rooms/White Castles," and a five-song EP, Time Will Be Kind. The band also had two tracks on Busted At Oz, a compilation album recorded at Chicago's Oz club. In 2010, Factory 25 Records released Exclamation Point, a compilation of studio recordings and unreleased tracks. DA! played some local reunion shows to celebrate, including an appearance on the Chic-A-Go-Go cable television show.

DA! had a St. Louis connection in guitarist/vocalist David Thomas, who attended Washington University in the late 1970s and played in numerous local bands before moving north.

A personal note: As a college student in the mid-1980s, I used to play Time Will Be Kind on my radio show at least once a month, even though the band had broken up a few years earlier. It was one of those rare records that would elicit calls from listeners, demanding to know where they could find it. My favorite track was "Next to Nothing." With its stuttering drumbeat, circling guitar lines and clipped vocals, it drew influence from the Factory and Rough Trade rosters, adding a tough, clear-eyed Midwestern perspective. It was a true buried treasure of its time.

Condolences to family, friends and fans. And what a lousy year this has been for musical heroes, both famous and obscure.


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