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.”
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. pic.twitter.com/5n5bctcu4j
— 𝕯𝖗𝖆𝖌 𝕮𝖎𝖙𝖞 (@dragcityrecords) August 7, 2019
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.”
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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. I was so stoked and so proud of Jarvis and Jeremy and the @woodsist gang for knocking this album outta the park. David's music always hit on a basic human gut level just in the power of his lyrics and voice alone… in a way no other modern artist of my generation has been able to… We were friends but I was looking forward to hopefully becoming closer and was so excited to see him around with purple mountains and hopefully play on “trains across the sea” in philly. Speaking of that tune (and others)… I’ve been singing a few silver jews songs to my daughters at night before they go to bed… since they were little… (it was a no brainer in the dna of my upbringing…) they were always affected by Cassie’s beautiful voice in “Tennessee” and would wanna sing that part… to the extent the first song my oldest daughter Awilda sang from memory (and later we recorded a version of) was "trains across the sea" and she performed "new orleans" at her co-op talent show. When my family came thru Nashville David and Cassie took us in graciously and David bought the girls a Mr Games style trinket I guess you might call a diorama music box (?) either way it will be cherished always. Love forever to Cassie and David from Kurt, Suzanne, Awilda and Delphine. “Snow is falling in Manhattan…” “I loved being my mother’s son…” “when god was young… he made the wind and the sun. And since then it’s been a slow education. And you got that one idea again………” “oh… oh oh… I’m lightening. Oh… oh oh… I’m rain. Oh… oh oh… it’s frightening… I’m not the same. I’m not the same. I’m not the same.” ❤️ God bless @dragcityrecords for releasing so much (and all) of his material. 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”.
I didn’t know about my friend DCB when I wrote this must have been in the air .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
— Stephen malkmus (@dronecoma) August 8, 2019
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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We have no words to describe how we feel this morning to learn of the loss of David Berman. All our love goes out to his family & loved ones, the Drag City family and the musicians who journeyed with him. We were beyond fortunate enough to have David contribute his sublime words to both Wildflower and our upcoming album. On a personal level David was always there for me throughout the ups and downs of life and provided much guidance, solace and humor reflecting on our shared struggles. You helped me so much David. His book Actual Air remains a standalone work of rare beauty and a heartbreaking look at the magic inherent in the day-to-day. Farewell David …for you are the light by which we travel into this and that ✨ – r
Very very sad to hear David Berman has passed away. A massive talent and a huge influence on us. RIP
— Aaron Dessner (@aaron_dessner) August 7, 2019
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