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David Berman, Singer-Songwriter With Indie Band Silver Jews, Dies at 52

David Berman, a singer-songwriter who formed the 1990s indie group Silver Jews as well as creating poetry and cartoons, died Wednesddy in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was 52.

His death has been ruled a suicide.

Berman was due to start a tour with his new project Purple Mountains on Saturday in New York. The tour had set dates across the country, concluding in Los Angeles on Sept. 23. After Berman had taken a break from music for several years, Purple Mountains had released an album on July 12, which features songs including “All My Happiness Is Gone” and “Maybe I’m the Only One for Me.”

Drag City called him “a great friend and one of the most inspiring individuals we’ve ever known.”

Berman had dealt with drug addiction for years and had survived several overdoses and at least one suicide attempt.

The Silver Jews, whose songs incorporated elements of noise and country music, rarely performed live but recorded six studio albums between 1994 and 2008, including “Starlite Walker” and “Tanglewood Numbers.” They did tour in 2006, however, following the release of “Tanglewood Numbers.”

He talked to Pitchfork about his stance on performing in 2005, “I believe that intermittent live performance has cut short the writing lives of touring musicians. If you are making an argument with history you don’t waste your energy and brain cells on sales, publicity, relentless travel, and other adjoining tasks. The less my body moves, the more energy my brain has to write.”

Berman started making music while living in Hoboken, N.J., with college friends Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich. Malkmus went on to form the indie rock group Pavement, but continued playing with Silver Jews, which had a number of different musicians over the years.

The group disbanded after playing a final show on Jan. 31, 2009, in the 333-foot deep Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee. Berman wrote two books of poetry, “Actual Air,” and “The Portable February.”

Berman had written in a post on the Drag City Records message board about his anger with his father, tobacco lobbyist, Richard Berman, from whom he was estranged.

If you are in distress, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to be connected to a certified crisis center near you.

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