Songwriter and Silver Jews frontman David Berman dies aged 52

No cause of death has been announced for songwriter and poet


David Berman, regarded as one of the most poetic voices in US indie-rock, has died aged 52. His record label Drag City confirmed the news, but hasn’t confirmed the cause of death.

Berman was best known for his project Silver Jews, known for wry, Berman-penned lyrics. They formed in 1989 in New Jersey, when Berman was living and working with Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich, who would go on to form the successful band Pavement. Malkmus has paid tribute to Berman, writing on Twitter: “His death is fucking dark ..depression is crippling . . .. he was a one of a kinder [SIC]the songs he wrote were his main passion esp at the end. Hope death equals peace cuz he could sure use it.”

Though not reaching the same level of success as Pavement, Silver Jews became a cult group in the US indie rock scene. Berman long refused to tour, but changed his mind for fifth album Tanglewood Numbers (2005), and toured with the band – which included his then wife Cassie Berman – until their dissolution in 2009. He also published a book of poetry, Actual Air (1999), and one of cartoons, The Portable February (2009).

One of the reasons Berman gave for breaking up the band was the work of his father, lobbyist Richard Berman, known in Washington political circles as “Dr Evil” for his advocacy work on behalf of industries including tobacco and fossil fuels.

“Previously I thought, through songs and poems and drawings I could find and build a refuge away from his world,” Berman wrote shortly after the end of Silver Jews. “But there is the matter of Justice. There needs to be something more. I’ll see what that might be.”

He began developing a TV show based on his father, and claimed he was in discussions with HBO to make it, but it was never filmed.

Berman mostly disappeared from the public eye for a decade, but returned this year with a new project, Purple Mountains, featuring him backed by the folk-rock band Woods.

Drag City paid tribute to him, writing: “A great friend and one of the most inspiring individuals we’ve ever known is gone.” – Guardian