News of the sudden death of David Berman, of beloved indie rock band The Silver Jews and, more recently, Purple Mountains, hit the music community hard.
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.
While the noted poet and songwriter was notoriously elusive, rarely performed live or gave interviews, Berman’s music — and especially his lyrics — resonated with fans who first discovered him via Silver Jews. The band went on to release six studio albums between 1994 and 2008. After taking a break from music for several years, Berman’s latest project Purple Mountains released an album on July 12.
Chicago label Drag City called him “a great friend and one of the most inspiring individuals we’ve ever known.”
Among the admirers, fellow musicians and media personalities to express their grief in the hours after news of Berman’s death broke were J Mascis, Superchunk, Josh Ritter, El-P and Marc Maron. Also honoring Berman was Red Sox organist Josh Kantor, who tweeted that he played the Silver Jews’ “The Wild Kindness” at Boston’s Fenway during the 10th inning. Former bandmate Malkmus wrote, “He was a one of a kinder.”
John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats tweeted a brief message calling Berman “the best of … my generation of songwriters” and then tweeted a long string of lyrics.
On Thursday night in New York, filmmaker Lance Bangs will hold a “Permissionless reading of the work of David Berman” outside the Met Breuer Museum at 7 p.m. Described as “an informal memorial gesture,” attendees are encouraged to “spread the word, bring copies of David’s writing, let me know if you would like to read anything, let me know if there are people I should reach out to, and check on your friends.” The invite can be found on Facebook.
Read their messages below:
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
Of, loosely, my generation of songwriters, the best of us. This loss is devastating. Rest easy, fellow traveler. https://t.co/6EqPLrDpXM
— The Mountain Goats (@mountain_goats) August 7, 2019
Hurts that David Berman was suffering so much. He brought me and I’m sure all of you so much joy. Twisted eccentricities of the suburbs were psychedelic cartoons in his lyrics. Sad day. It’s raining in NYC.
— Ryley walker (@ryleywalker) August 8, 2019
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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.
Fenway organ, 10th inning: Silver Jews, "The Wild Kindness."
— Josh Kantor (@jtkantor) August 8, 2019
Fuck. Goddamnit. RIP David Berman. One of the great tortured poetic souls is gone. A master of beautiful darkness.
— marc maron (@marcmaron) August 8, 2019
terrible terrible news about david berman. will honor him on the air tomorrow on xmu. my condolences to his extended musical family. 💔 #RIP
— Jenny Eliscu (@jennylsq) August 7, 2019
“I'm gonna shine out in the wild silence.” David Berman, you shocked me with the beauty of your language and vision. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
— Josh Ritter (@joshritter) August 7, 2019
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.