Stephen Malkmus, Kurt Vile, Cat Power and others remember the singular musician
David Berman has died at the age of 52.
Berman’s death was confirmed by his record label Drag City. No cause of death has as yet been revealed.
The label’s statement reads: “We couldn’t be more sorry to tell you this. David Berman passed away earlier today. A great friend and one of the most inspiring individuals we’ve ever known is gone. Rest easy, David.”
As the frontman for Silver Jews – and with his new project, Purple Mountains – Berman was known for his wry, witty lyrics.
Kurt Vile was among one of the first people to pay their respects with a lengthy post on Instagram. He wrote: “So crushed. I grew up on David Berman and the Silver Jews catalogue in mostly real time… in such a way that his music and lyrics and vocals have touched me to this day and are still growing in significance (and of course a higher high of nostalgia on the side with each revisitation… and there has been so much revisiting these last few years I must say). I was so excited for these upcoming shows and how amazing the new Purple Mountains record is. R.I.P. David Berman. You will be missed.”
Having disbanded Silver Jews in 2008 after 19 years, Berman released his first new album in 11 years in July. That came with a self-titled album under the name Purple Mountains.
Berman founded Silver Jews in 1989 with future Pavement members Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich. Berman was the only permanent member of the collective, releasing his sixth and final Silver Jews album with 2008’s Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea.
Announcing his retirement from music with Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, Berman said he instead intended to pursue a career in screenwriting. Ahead of Silver Jews’ final show in 2009, Berman wrote on Drag City’s message board: “I’ve got to move on. Can’t be like all the careerists, doncha know. I’m 42 and I know what to do. I’m a writer, see? … I always said we would stop before we got bad. If I continue to record, I might accidentally write the answer song to ‘Shiny Happy People.’”
Before returning as Purple Mountains, Berman first came back to music by producing Yonatan Gat’s 2018 album, Universalists.
Stephen Malkmus Tweeted about Berman’s death: “His death is fucking dark ..depression is crippling.. he was a one of a kinder the songs he wrote were his main passion esp at the end. Hope death equals peace cuz he could sure use it”.
Bob Nastanovich also paid tribute to his friend.
“I was saddened to hear that David died. Stephen [Malkmus] called me to tell me this afternoon.
“For most of my life, I was amazed by David as a person, a humorist and a writer. It was enlightening to have such a talented friend at a young age and realize that the talent wasn’t always a blessing.
“David battled mental illness for nearly all of his life. He had professional help and the unyielding support of hundreds of good friends. He had many loving and devoted fans.
“Please try to cherish your memories of him and his words and music including his last album Purple Mountains.
“I know I will and I’m grateful that the list of good memories and stories is long.”
Purple Mountains were due to begin their first tour this weekend (August 9).
You can read other tributes below from The Avalanches, Cat Power, Deerhunter and Aaron Dessner.
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