By Glenn Alderson
Never one to bask in the glow of the spotlight, musician David Berman passed away silently and suddenly on Wednesday, August 7 at the age of 52. The subversive alt-poet, cartoonist and country-tinged indie crooner is best known for his work with the Silver Jews and was living in Chicago at the time of his death.
“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,” Berman’s record label, Drag City, posted on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon.
He was separated from his wife Cassie Berman, but the two still owned a house together in Nashville. And although the cause of death is still uncertain, Berman dealt with substance abuse issues throughout his life and had attempted suicide in 2003.
Berman created the Silver Jews with friends and Pavement members Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich, creating an alt-country sound that was all very much his own.
Over the course of his time with Silver Jews, band members would come and go but Berman released six full length albums, two books and a documentary film.
In early 2019, Berman returned to music under the new band name Purple Mountains, releasing an eponymous debut album in July 2019 and marking a long awaited and welcomed return to form for the singer.
Though Berman had actively avoided playing live throughout most of the band’s existence, he led the band on their first-ever tour following the release of Tanglewood Numbers (2005). The band toured throughout North America, Europe and Israel in 2006 before releasing the heartfelt documentary, Silver Jew, outlining Berman’s brief but emotional journey revisiting his religious roots in Israel.
“I’m gonna shine out in the wild silence.” Berman sings on the American Water track, “Wild Kindness”
Berman’s light and irreverent sense of humour will shine on forever through his music.David Berman, Purple Mountains, Silver Jews