Sometimes the last thing you want to do is the only thing you can do; it’s in this reluctant and punched-in-the-gut spirit that Recovery Unplugged says goodbye to poet, musician and artist David Berman, founder of Silver Jews and, more recently, Purple Mountains. Berman was 52 and spent over half his life delivering some of the most beautifully painful yet delightfully tongue-in-cheek poetry, and some of the most distinct and unforgettable records you only may have heard (and should listen to right now if you haven’t). Tributes from the media and Berman’s peers have been pouring out in justifiably ample supply since his passing last Thursday. For our own part, Recovery Unplugged has assembled a David Berman memorial playlist, because…what else can we do?
Who David Berman Was, Is and Always Will Be
David Berman was an artist, poet and songwriter who used the best and worst of his life to create the most raw and resonant works; a self-described recluse whose conservative upbringing seemed directly antithetical to his artistic legacy. His stripped-down guitar arrangements, grittily homespun poetry and uniquely monotone vocal delivery culminated works that could simultaneously conjure images of the heartland and the wasteland.
Though he may not have achieved the same level of commercial or critical notoriety (an undoubtedly self-imposed distinction), Berman was a peer, inspiration and collaborator to a slew of indie legends, like Superchunk and Pavement, the latter of which formed after its front man Stephen Malkmus spent years working with Berman in Silver Jews.
Berman formed Silver Jews in 1989 and disbanded the group in 2009 after multiple lineup changes and six amazing records (seriously…listen to The Natural Bridge like now). After a few years of inactivity, Berman reemerged to form Purple Mountains, an effort for which he just released a new self-titled record and was slated to begin a North American tour this weekend.
Troubles with Addiction and Mental Illness
While no immediate cause of death has been reported, Berman struggled with substance abuse and mental health issues for years. In 2009, when he ended Silver Jews, he wrote an open letter in which he revealed that his father was Richard Berman, a lobbyist who Berman said: “led campaigns against animal rights, trade unions, and even opposed anti-drunk-driving groups.” He attempted suicide at least once in 2003, and it’s been said in the wake of his passing that he appeared “unsteady” in the limited press appearances he gave to promote the new Purple Mountains record.
Recovery Unplugged wishes David Berman peace, and his loved ones, peers and fans the strength they need to get through this incredibly difficult time.