Singer-songwriter and poet David Berman, frontman for the indie band Silver Jews, has died at the age of 52, Variety reports. His record label announced Berman’s death on Twitter:
Berman was scheduled to begin a national tour on Saturday with his newly launched musical project, Purple Mountains. Their first album was released less than a month ago; reviewing it, Slate’s Carl Wilson looked back at Berman’s musical career, which began when he founded Silver Jews with future Pavement members Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastovich in 1989:
Berman was arguably one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, if you could scare up enough people who’d heard of him to have the argument. In the space of six albums and a couple of EPs, of which two of those projects reached a ramshackle perfection (1996’s The Natural Bridge and 1998’s American Water), the rest patchier but never without visionary bursts, Berman delivered a singular aesthetic universe. His shaggy, reticent drawl and country-ish melodies, inheritances of his part-Texan youth, help to ground the loose electricity of his poetry.
Silver Jews disbanded in 2009, making Purple Mountains the first album from Berman in a decade. He was the son of tobacco and fossil fuel lobbyist Richard Berman, from whom he was estranged. David Berman struggled with substance abuse and tried to kill himself at least once in the past. In addition to his musical projects, he also published a poetry collection, Actual Air, and The Portable February, a book of cartoons and illustrations.
Correction, Aug. 11, 2019: This article originally inaccurately referred to Rick Berman as a “firearms, tobacco, and fossil fuel lobbyist.” Berman has never worked on gun-related issues.