Jessi Zazu, a beloved fixture of the Nashville music community and member of indie rock band Those Darlins, has passed away at the age of 28. As reported by the Tennessean, she died with family and friends by her side at Nashville’s Centennial Hospital on Tuesday morning following a battle with cervical cancer.
Zazu, whose full name is Jessi Zazu Wariner, was a founding member of Nashville-based indie rock outfit Those Darlins. The band, which, in its final incarnation, featured Zazu alongside Nikki “Darlin” Kvarnes and Linwood Regensburg, released three studio albums, toured extensively, and became one of Nashville’s most celebrated rock bands before announcing an “indefinite hiatus” in December of 2015. They played their final official show at Nashville’s Basement East on January 29, 2016.
Since then, Zazu remained an integral part of Nashville’s music and arts communities, pursuing visual arts, remaining active with Murfreesboro’s Southern Girls Rock Camp, and contributing time to activist organizations like Standing Up for Racial Justice Nashville.
In December of 2016, Zazu publicly announced that she had stage II cervical cancer. She raised funds and awareness through her “Ain’t Afraid” campaign, which dovetailed with a summer 2017 art show, titled “Undefeated,” at Julia Martin Gallery that also featured work from Zazu’s mother, Kathy Wariner. The Nashville community rallied around Zazu, through benefits like a July 2017 John Prine tribute show and via several prominent profiles of Zazu’s life and career.
Zazu is survived by two brothers, Emmett Wariner and Oakley Wariner, father David Wariner, and mother Kathy Wariner. Memorial arrangements have not yet been announced.
Linwood Regensburg shared the following message to the Those Darlins Facebook page:
“Yesterday I said goodbye to my best friend, long time partner in crime and hero, Jessi Zazu Wariner.
She maintained a sense of humor and a commanding presence up until and through her final moments. She was in the company of those who cared deeply about her and who she cared deeply about.
Shout-out to your contagious spirit that inspired all who crossed it. Shout-out to the creative dynamo who continued to flourish even against insurmountable odds. Shout-out to all the little triumphs over the last 16 months. Shout-out to the ridiculous van rides and the fights and to the fact that we never turned our backs on one another over the last decade. Shout-out to the dreams we made and the ones left to come. And shout-out to all of you who have supported her until the end.”