Silver. Purple. Fade to black.

You probably wouldn’t guess it based on the haphazard “style” of my weekly music posts, but there actually IS a wee bit of planning involved in them. I use a Milanote board to capture my digital scribbles and random brain droppings.

Not quite as scary as the stalker photos on a serial killer’s basement wall… but close

Just yesterday morning (to paraphrase James Taylor), I wrote down this note about an album I wanted to mention, because I was thoroughly enjoying it:

Purple Mountains is the new project from David Berman, who headed the band Silver Jews from the late 80s through the oughts. The self-titled album Purple Mountains, which came out a few weeks ago, was David’s first new release after a decade-long, self-imposed break from the music industry. And it’s brilliant. Here’s a great blurb from Kayleigh Hughes’ review of the album on Consequence of Sound:

David Berman is one of our greatest living songwriters and he’s returned in beautiful, melancholic form as Purple Mountains to speak to the lifelong nihilistic depressive in all of us. Several moments on the album suggest his return to music-making came almost without a choice. Things haven’t been going so well for him these days, he says, and he’s just, well, he’s writing some stuff about it.

Then last night, my “I know the things you do” smartphone served up this headline:

On the cusp of his first tour in forever, David passed away. So sad.

David formed Silver Jews with Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich, who later started the band Pavement. Bob’s statement sums up a lot of people’s feelings:

“I was saddened to hear that David died. Stephen called me to tell me this afternoon.

For most of my life, I was amazed by David as a person, a humorist and a writer. It was enlightening to have such a talented friend at a young age and realize that the talent wasn’t always a blessing.

David battled mental illness for nearly all of his life. He had professional help and the unyielding support of hundreds of good friends. He had many loving and devoted fans.

Please try to cherish your memories of him and his words and music including his last album Purple Mountains.

I know I will and I’m grateful that the list of good memories and stories is long.”

I read this article from The Ringer when it came out a month ago. It provides a lot more insight into David’s struggles, and is well worth a read. He’s gone, but his music lives on.

2 Replies to “Silver. Purple. Fade to black.”

  1. Jay Stowe

    Thanks for this, Damian. I got to know David a bit in college and briefly afterwards in New York. The bond was basically music. He was an occasional deejay at WTJU in Charlottesville during school; I credit him (and Bob Nastanovich) with introducing me to a ton of great bands. He had a unique view of the world we live in, and despite his struggles, came at it with a dry wit from a refreshingly skewed angle. He also had a beautiful way with words. He told me one time about sitting across the table from Kim Gordon after a Sonic Youth show at Trax in C’ville; he said she had the look of a “sultry tigress.” I called him once when I was an editor at Outside and asked him if he’d write an “epic poem” about America for a travel package. It was a fairly dopey idea, but he indulged me kindly. He had a generous spirit, a wonderful sense of the absurd, and some darkness that followed him around. All of which made him, in my eyes, one of the most eloquent voices of my generation. It hurts to think he’s gone.

  2. Lisa

    So sad! Question – where do you go to “buy” the album these days? I haven’t a clue – I stopped with CDs – haha! Which service do you download from?


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