R.I.P. David Berman of Purple Mountains and Silver Jews | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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R.I.P. David Berman of Purple Mountains and Silver Jews

He Was 52 Years Old; Fellow Musicians Pay Tribute to Him

Aug 07, 2019 Purple Mountains Bookmark and Share

David Berman has died. The 52-year-old was best known as the frontman (and sole constant member) of Silver Jews. But he recently returned to music after a long hiatus with a new project, Purple Mountains. Last month Berman released the self-titled debut album under the Purple Mountains name via Drag City. It was Berman’s first album in 11 years, since 2008’s Silver Jews album Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea. Drag City announced the news of his passing today. No cause of death has been revealed as of yet. Below, find tweets from fellow musicians reacting to his passing, as well as a selection of his music.

Berman was born in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1967. His father, Richard Berman was a lobbyist who represented the firearm and alcohol industries, among others, which later contributed to Berman’s estrangement from his father. Berman formed Silver Jews in 1989 with two members of Pavement, Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich, which was the same year that Pavement was formed. The band was formed in the New York City area (Hoboken, New Jersey), but Berman, Malkmus, and Nastanovich had all previously attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA together. Silver Jews started out as a recording project and didn’t tour their first four albums: 1994’s Starlite Walker, 1996’s The Natural Bridge, 1998’s American Water, and 2001’s Bright Flight. Berman embraced touring for Silver Jews’ last two albums, 2005’s Tanglewood Numbers and 2008’s Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (which was recorded partially in Lexington, VA, where Under the Radar is currently based). By then Berman’s wife Cassie Berman had joined the band. Malkmus and Nastanovich would come and go over the years as Pavement’s stature grew, as did other members, with Berman the sole constant, disproving the initial assertion that the band was simply a Pavement side project. In 2009 Berman announced he was retiring from music and Silver Jews played one final show on January 31, 2009 in some caverns 333 feet below the ground. Berman also released two books: Actual Air (1999) and The Portable February (2009).

At the time of his death, Berman was living in Chicago and was separated from his wife Cassie (although the two still owned a house together in Nashville). Berman dealt with substance abuse issues over the years and in 2003 attempted suicide.

When it was announced that Berman was returning with Purple Mountains, fans and the music press embraced him with open arms. Purple Mountains was critically acclaimed, with an 87 rating on Metacritic (indicating “Universal Acclaim”) and a rave 8.5/10 review from our own Timothy Michalik. Purple Mountains’ first tour was scheduled to begin this Saturday.

Below is a selection of Silver Jews and Purple Mountains music, as well as a tweet from Drag City about Berman’s passing and tweets from fellow musicians reacting to his death.

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