Way back when i used to have a radio show at good old Podunk U. i used to peruse the records and get stoned in the back room, a nice pair of headphones, a turntable, a window to clandestinely ogle the co-eds. Life was grand. I stumbled upon some great bands back then. The Silver Jews was not one of them, i stumbled upon them later, reading magazines that probably no longer exist.
For a decade or so i sort of forgot about dcb and the Silver Jews. He had packed it in in 2009. He wrote a letter that had most people worried that the next time you heard of him it would be an obit. He suffered from what he called un-treatable depression, he battled drug and alcohol abuse, he battled a father who was a lobbyist for the booze and tobacco lobbies. It was a father who all but disowned him, the guy could have been set for life if he just played the game his dad wanted him to but he didn't. He bounced around, was practically homeless, at one point living above the Drag City records offices in an apartment they let him stay in. His marriage of twenty years dissolved. Then out of nowhere came a new record.
David Berman is not the greatest singer or guitar player but his songs will knock the wind right out of you. They are a strange mix of bleak and uplifting and specific but not so much that one can't apply their own meaning to it and really that's what we want from music most of the time, we want to relate it to our own lives, to soundtrack it as i say. His new band was called Purple Mountains and the record the same, as the Kid said, listening to it can sometimes feel akin to watching a snuff film. It was a goodbye. There can be no blame placed anywhere or on anyone but it's hard to imagine the people who heard it before it's release not asking him if he was going to be okay. There are some songs on this record i relate to so well it would be worrisome if not for the fact i don't suffer from depression and more just the general melancholia of a sometimes delicate soul. David was torn up when his wife and he split. Rest assured that would not be my reaction to the same event.
And so three days before his tour David Berman hung himself.
I had been listening to the Purple Mountains record before that but it took on a whole new meaning after the news broke. I dug back into the Silver Jews catalog and was reminded of just how fucking brilliant this guy was with words. I tend to like to remember him by looking at the back of the Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea cover, a smiling and happy guy playing music and singing with his wife and band. Now the music and his book of poems are all we have left. Sadly that'll have to be enough. (this one here might be my favorite, it hits home a little too close sometimes but good lord god damn is it a great fucking song.)