The songwriter, who has worked with R.E.M‘s Michael Stipe, passed away on December 25. He had been in a coma that was the result of an overdose of muscle relaxers, taken earlier this week, reports the New York Times.
Chesnutt had a history of suicide attempts, recently telling NPR radio station he had “attempted suicide three or four times” but that “it didn’t take”. Left in a wheelchair after a car accident when he was 18, Chesnutt released 16 albums in total, with ‘At the Cut’ and ‘Skitter On Take-Off’ both coming out in 2009. Acts including Madonna, Sparklehorse, The Smashing Pumpkins and R.E.M covered his songs on 1996 tribute album ‘Sweet Relief II: Gravity Of The Situation’.
Hersh wrote: “This time, it’s real scary: This time, he left a note, this time, he asked them to call me.”
She has also has set up a donation account to help Chesnutt‘s family, at Kristinhersh.cashmusic.org.
“He was able to bring levity to very dark emotions and feelings, and he had a humour that was really quite unusual,” Stipe said. “I said recently that I thought he was one of our greatest songwriters, and one of our greatest voices.”
A further post from Stipe on REMhq.com said simply: “We have lost one of our great ones.”
Chesnutt is survived by his wife, Tina Whatley Chesnutt; a sister, Lorinda Crane; and nine nieces and nephews. A memorial for the singer is taking place today (December 27) in Athens.