David Berman, singer-songwriter, poet, and Silver Jews lead singer, has died at the age of 52. Berman’s record label Drag City announced his death on Twitter on Wednesday. Although Berman’s friend, the musician Joe Pernice, claimed in a now-deleted tweet that Berman died by suicide, Drag City did not confirm the cause of his death.
But the beloved singer is known to have struggled with substance abuse and depression for years and attempted suicide in 2003.
He was set to begin his North American tour for his latest album, Purple Mountain, this weekend.
“We couldn’t be more sorry to tell you this,” Drag City tweeted. “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.”
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. pic.twitter.com/5n5bctcu4j
— 𝕯𝖗𝖆𝖌 𝕮𝖎𝖙𝖞 (@dragcityrecords) August 7, 2019
Berman formed the indie band Silver Jews in 1989 with Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich. Silver Jews served mostly as side project for Nastanovich and Malkmus, with Berman as the only constant member. But Berman’s wife Cassie was also a member before the group disbanded in 2009.
Silver Jews released six albums, including Starlite Walker (1994), The Natural Bridge (1996), American Water (1998), Bright Flight (2001), Tanglewood Numbers (2005), and Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (2008).
Silver Jews also released two EPs The Arizona Record (1993) and Tennessee (2001). Singles released by the group include Dime Map Of The Reef (1992), Silver Jews And Nico (1993), Blue Arrangements (1998), Send in the Clouds (1998), and Hot as Hell (1999).
Berman published a collection of poetry, titled Actual Air, in 1999.
He retired from music in 2009 and Silver Jews disbanded the same year after releasing their sixth LP Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea.
“I take pride in the fact that I can walk away from things,” he told The Ringer in a July interview. “My willingness to walk away has protected me, I realize that now. Being able to walk away from sessions, from poetry, from dreams of being a poetry professor.”
Berman co-produced Yonatan Gat’s Universalists in 2018, and under the moniker Purple Mountains, he released a single, titled All My Happiness Is Gone, in May 2019. Under the same Purple Mountains moniker, he released a self-titled album with Drag City in July 2019.
Fans, friends, colleagues, and music industry players, have been paying tribute on Twitter.
I could sit here all day and quote memorable David Berman couplets and never grow tired. He had no competition. He was the competition.
— The Mountain Goats (@mountain_goats) August 7, 2019
this is terrible news. as a poet and songwriter and fellow umass alum i couldn’t have respected him more. RIP david, what a loss of a tremendous talent https://t.co/myzgKZ3jQp
— speedy ortiz haunted presence? (@sad13) August 7, 2019
Hurts that David Berman was suffering so much. He brought me and I’m sure all of you so much joy. Twisted eccentricities of the suburbs were psychedelic cartoons in his lyrics. Sad day. It’s raining in NYC.
— Ryley walker (@ryleywalker) August 8, 2019
Rest in Peace our dear friend David Berman. A brilliant man and a blazing talent. Our world is a lesser place today and we will miss you terribly. pic.twitter.com/iaeciLXOLR
— Domino Recording Co (@Dominorecordco) August 8, 2019
R.I.P. David Berman, January 4, 1967 – August 7, 2019. Here he is in footage from the 2007 documentary “Silver Jew.” pic.twitter.com/1DWZkkRezH
— Dust-to-Digital (@dusttodigital) August 8, 2019
Rest In Peace, David Berman— the world lost a gentle lyrical beacon whose music guided me through some of my heaviest and lightest times.
One of the greatest albums of all time.
— Nate Powell (@Nate_Powell_Art) August 8, 2019
We were supposed to see Purple Mountains in 2 days, playing with Bejar solo. Was looking forward to meeting David Berman. Never knew him but his death feels so close. Like Scott Miller’s death felt close. At least we have the music to hang out with.
— Carl Newman (@ACNewman) August 8, 2019
David Berman was separated from his wife Cassie Berman and lived in Chicago, Illinois at the time of his death.