Silver Jews singer David Berman dies aged 52

Berman had recently returned with new project Purple Mountains after a decade away from music

Silver Jews singer David Berman has died at the age of 52.

Berman’s death was confirmed by his record label Drag City, who were Berman’s record company throughout his career. No cause of death has as yet been revealed.

Drag City’s statement reads: ““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.”

 

Kurt Vile was among one of the first people to pay their respects with a lengthy post on Instagram. He wrote: “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. R.I.P. David Berman. You will be missed.”

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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.

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Having disbanded Silver Jews in 2008 after 19 years, Berman released his first new album in 11 years in July. That came with a self-titled album under the name Purple Mountains.

Berman founded Silver Jews in 1989 with future Pavement members Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich. Their first album didn’t come until 1994’s ‘Starlite Walker’. Berman was the only permanent member of the collective, releasing his sixth and final Silver Jews album with 2008’s ‘Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea’.

Announcing his retirement from music with ‘Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea’, Berman said he instead intended to pursue a career in screenwriting. Ahead of Silver Jews’ final show in 2009, Berman wrote on Drag City’s message board: “I’ve got to move on. Can’t be like all the careerists, doncha know. I’m 42 and I know what to do. I’m a writer, see? … I always said we would stop before we got bad. If I continue to record, I might accidentally write the answer song to ‘Shiny Happy People.’”

Berman had suffered from depression and drug addiction while in Silver Jews. He rarely gave interviews, and only began touring in earnest around Silver Jews’ acclaimed 2005 album ‘Tanglewood Numbers’.

The singer said his “biggest secret” was his family background. He revealed he was the son of noted right-wing lobbyist Richard Berman, who worked for the gun and alcohol industries. The two were estranged after Richard ignored his son’s pleas to give up his work. David said: “My heart was constantly on fire for justice. I could find no relief. This winter, I decided that the SJs were too small of a force to ever come close to undoing a millionth of all the harm he has caused.”

Before returning as Purple Mountains, Berman first came back to music by producing Yonatan Gat’s 2018 album ‘Universalists’.

Purple Mountains were due to begin their first tour this weekend (August 9).