Stephen Malkmus, Bob Nastanovich, and More React to the Passing of David Berman | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Stephen Malkmus, Bob Nastanovich, and More React to the Passing of David Berman

The Silver Jews and Purple Mountains Frontman Died Yesterday

Aug 08, 2019 Silver Jews Bookmark and Share

David Berman passed away yesterday and in our post last night we included social media tributes from many of his fellow musicians. Since then several others have also paid tribute to Berman, most notably his original Silver Jews bandmates Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich. You can read their tributes below, along with some from other musicians.

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.

Berman was born in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1967 and 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 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. 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).

Here’s what Malkmus had to say on Twitter:

Nastanovich didn’t post on social media, but instead gave a statement to Pitchfork:

“I was saddened to hear that David died. Stephen called me to tell me this afternoon.

“For most of my life, I was amazed by David as a person, a humorist and a writer. It was enlightening to have such a talented friend at a young age and realize that the talent wasn’t always a blessing.

“David battled mental illness for nearly all of his life. He had professional help and the unyielding support of hundreds of good friends. He had many loving and devoted fans.

“Please try to cherish your memories of him and his words and music including his last album Purple Mountains.

“I know I will and I’m grateful that the list of good memories and stories is long.”

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. Although we should stress that no official cause of death has been revealed as of yet.

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 more social media posts from fellow musicians reacting to his death (on top of the ones we already posted yesterday).

View this post on Instagram

We have no words to describe how we feel this morning to learn of the loss of David Berman. All our love goes out to his family & loved ones, the Drag City family and the musicians who journeyed with him. We were fortunate enough to have David contribute his sublime words to both Wildflower and our upcoming album. What a gift. On a personal level David was always there for me throughout the ups and downs of life and provided much guidance, solace and humor reflecting on our shared struggles. You helped me so much David. His book Actual Air remains a standalone work of rare beauty and a heartbreaking look at the magic inherent in the day-to-day. Farewell David are the light by which we travel into this and that - r

A post shared by The Avalanches (@theavalanches) on Aug 7, 2019 at 5:19pm PDT

View this post on Instagram

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.

A post shared by Kurt Vile (@kurtvile) on Aug 7, 2019 at 8:36pm PDT

View this post on Instagram

Rest easy David Berman. I’ve cried to many songs by many people over the years. But this one is high on the list of hard hitters. Not necessarily the best song he wrote. But he wrote so many great songs and used words so magically. Somehow this one and it’s sentimentality is the one that popped into my head first when reading that he’s gone. I met him briefly after watching him play a show in a cave in Tennessee. Brian and his wife and I drove down from baltimore to catch the show. I know we are losing so many things and people. Maybe to some it’s weird to post about him and not Toni or this weekend’s shootings. Posting anything about anything is weird tho. Not even sure why I’m doing this. Go and listen to this man’s music. Listen to his shakey and vulnerable voice spin words like no other. Love your people and do your best.

A post shared by DEAKIN (@deakin_joshmin) on Aug 7, 2019 at 4:50pm PDT

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