Mark Allen Mothersbaugh (/ˈmʌðərzbɔː/; born May 18, 1950) is an American singer, songwriter, composer, record producer and visual artist. Mothersbaugh's music career spans more than 40 years. He came to prominence in the late 1970s as co-founder and lead singer of the new wave band Devo, which released a top 20 hit in 1980 with the single "Whip It". The band has maintained a cult following throughout its existence. Mothersbaugh is one of the main composers of Devo's music, and made major lyrical contributions to the band's songs. He is one of only two members (along with bassist/synthesizer player Gerald Casale) who have been with Devo throughout its entire history.
Mothersbaugh began his solo career in 1987 while still a member of Devo. Since then, he has released three studio albums. His other musical projects include work for television series, films and video games via his production company, Mutato Muzika.
His lifelong interest in creating multimedia art pieces has resulted in gallery exhibitions of items such as his "Beautiful Mutants" photograph series, postcard diaries, art rugs, sculptures and musical instruments created from salvaged organ pipes and bird calls.
Mothersbaugh attended Kent State as an art student, where he met Devo co-founders Jerry Casale and Bob Lewis. In early 1970, Lewis and Casale formed the idea of the "devolution" of the human race after Casale's friend Jeffrey Miller was killed by Ohio National Guardsmen firing on a student demonstration. Intrigued by the concept, Mothersbaugh joined them, building upon it with elements of early post-structuralist ideas and oddball arcana, most notably unearthing the infamous Jocko-Homo Heavenbound pamphlet (the basis for the song "Jocko Homo"). This association culminated in 1973, when the trio started to play music as Devo.
Since Devo, Mothersbaugh has developed a successful career writing musical scores for film and television. In film, he has worked frequently with filmmaker Wes Anderson, scoring half of his feature films (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). He also composed for The Lego Movie.
Mothersbaugh's music has been a staple of the children's television shows Rugrats, Beakman's World, Santo Bugito and Clifford the Big Red Dog. He also wrote the new theme song for the original Felix the Cat show when it was sold to Broadway Video, some music for Pee-wee's Playhouse in 1990 and the theme song for the Super Mario World TV series for DIC Entertainment in 1991. The character design for Chuckie Finster on Rugrats was based on him.
Mothersbaugh is known for producing music in video games including Sony's Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter series (both music scores were created by Josh Mancell), and creating music for EA Games' The Sims 2. This work is often performed with Mutato Muzika, the music production company he formed with several other former members of Devo including his brother, Bob Mothersbaugh.
Mothersbaugh composed "Having Trouble Sneezing", the distinctive music in the award-winning "Get a Mac" commercials for Apple Inc. He composed the score for the first season of the television series Big Love but was replaced after one season by David Byrne of Talking Heads. Mothersbaugh also composed the theme music for the American television show Eureka, broadcast on the SyFy channel. He currently composes the score of the Cartoon Network's TV series Regular Show.
In 2013, Mothersbaugh appeared on an episode of The Aquabats! Super Show!, an action-comedy series by the creators of Yo Gabba Gabba! starring the Devo-influenced band The Aquabats, playing the eccentric scientist father of one of the main characters, Jimmy the Robot.
Mothersbaugh and Casale have also produced music for other artists including Toni Basil.
Mothersbaugh was born to parents Mary Margaret ("Mig") and Robert Mothersbaugh, Sr. He has two younger brothers, Bob and Jim, and two sisters, Amy and Susan. His father appeared in early Devo films and fan events as the character General Boy, and his brothers participated in the band, although Jim's tenure was brief.
At the age of seven, Mothersbaugh began wearing glasses to correct his severe myopia and astigmatism. Over the years, he took an interest in designing his own distinctive eyewear for use in Devo shows. He favored a particular set of stainless steel frames for regular use made by a Los Angeles shop called LA Eyeworks, and says he purchased as many pairs as he could find because they tended to break or get stolen by fans. In a joint venture with eyewear manufacturer Shane Baum, Mothersbaugh has designed his own branded frames for sale, made of beryllium with a stainless steel chrome finish, in three different styles as of 2015. The Baumvision press release states that the unisex model "Francesca" is named for one of Mothersbaugh's pug dogs which is a simultaneous hermaphrodite that is also called Frank.
He has been married twice. His first wife was actress Nancye Ferguson, who can be seen briefly performing with him in the film Mystery Men. His current wife is Anita Greenspan, who runs the film music managing company Greenspan Kohan Management with Neil Kohan. The couple has two daughters from China, Mai Li Margaret and Hui Hui Hope, who were adopted after Greenspan learned of the practice in that country of female children being abandoned because of their gender.
Mothersbaugh is a collector and connoisseur of song poems and unusual or vintage musical devices. He is the owner of Raymond Scott's Electronium (although it is currently not functional).
Mothersbaugh was honored with the Richard Kirk award at the 2004 BMI Film and TV Awards. The award is given annually to a composer who has made significant contributions to film and television music.
On May 10, 2008, Mothersbaugh was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Kent State University.