Singer is thought to have suffered a heart attack

Alex Chilton has died of a suspected heart attack, aged 59.

The singer and guitarist, who rose to prominence in Big Star and The Box Tops, passed away on Wednesday (March 17) in a New Orleans hospital.

Memphis-born Chilton is said to have complained about his health earlier on Wednesday, before being taken to hospital by paramedics, reports The Commercial Appeal.

He had been due to play a gig at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas with Big Star on Saturday (March 20).

Chilton first found success at 16 with The Box Tops. The band had a huge hit with ‘The Letter’ in 1967, but failed to match the song’s success and broke up in 1970. The following year, Chilton formed the Memphis-based Big Star, and went on to make three critically acclaimed albums, 1972 debut ‘#1 Record’, 1973’s ‘Radio City’ and ‘Third/Sister Lovers’, recorded in 1974 but not released until four years later.

John Fry, whose Ardent Records released much of Big Star‘s material, paid tribute to Chilton.

“I’m crushed. We’re all just crushed,” said Fry. “This sudden death experience is never something that you’re prepared for. And yet it occurs.”

Big Star split up in 1974, but went on to become cult icons thanks to praise from other acts including R.E.M, Teenage Fanclub and The Replacements. Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens reformed the band in 1993 with a new line-up and, in 1996, he also reformed The Box Tops.

By coincidence this week’s issue of NME had seen Chilton featuring highly in a list of favourite cult musicians.

Alex Chilton is survived by his wife, Laura, a son, Timothy, and a sister, Cecilia.

Alex Chilton – A cult hero remembered