×

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.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Woodstock Festival of Arts and Music

    As Woodstock Turns 50, the Fest's 10 Most Sacred Music Moments (Watch)

    Cars were left abandoned along the New York Interstate. Electrical and speaker systems fuzzed and popped. Amps blew then went silent. The rain was endless as the mud sank deep and rank. Young children ran naked and dazed through crowds of strangers. Food was scarce. Water, unclean. Looking back, Woodstock seems a more apocalyptic, than [...]

  • 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band

    Film Review: 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas'

    Settling in to watch “ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas,” you may have a burning question that applies to almost no other rock documentary, and that is: Who, exactly, are these guys? The ones behind the beards? If you’re old enough, of course, you probably know that ZZ Top started out, in 1969, [...]

  • NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST

    Jay-Z to Acquire Ownership Stake in NFL Team (Report)

    Jay-Z will soon acquire a “significant ownership interest” in an NFL team, TMZ reported on Friday. The team was not disclosed, but a source told the site the deal will happen in the “near future,” adding that the billionaire rapper “wants to continue to be a change agent for the NFL.” Jay-Z’s company, Roc Nation, [...]

  • Blake Shelton, Trace AdkinsCMA Music Festival

    Blake Shelton Takes a Shot at 'Old Town Road' in New Single

    Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins have just released a duet, “Hell Right,” that seems to have a beef with “Old Town Road.” But is it a light-hearted, maybe even affectionate slam — or should anyone read culture-war significance into the two country stars expressing a preference for Hank Williams Jr. over Lil Nas X, the breakout [...]

  • Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven

    Department of Justice Backs Led Zeppelin in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Copyright Case

    The U.S. Department of Justice has weighed in on the next big music copyright case on the horizon following the Katy Perry “Dark Horse” decision, and taken Led Zeppelin’s side in the long-running copyright dispute that pits the writers of the group’s anthem “Stairway to Heaven” against the publishers of the earlier song “Taurus” by [...]

  • Teddy Riley Walk of Fame

    From Blackstreet to Hollywood Blvd. as Teddy Riley Receives a Star on the Walk of Fame

    Many musical artists are responsible for hits, whether recording and writing for themselves or producing smashes for others. Teddy Riley’s got the success, having fashioned platinum-plated R&B works for, and with, Bobby Brown, Michael Jackson, Keith Sweat, Doug E. Fresh and more since the mid-’80s, not to mention the music of his own slick soul [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content