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David Berman Dead at 52

David Berman, co-founder and leader of the beloved indie band Silver Jews, has died. His longtime record label Drag City announced the news Wednesday night. Berman’s cause of death is not known at this time. He was 52.

“We couldn’t be more sorry to tell you this,” Drag City wrote on Twitter. “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.”

Berman formed Silver Jews in 1989 with his University of Virginia classmates Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich. He released six albums, including the 1998 classic American Water, under the moniker before retiring from music in 2009 following years of struggles with substance abuse.

Berman developed a cult following for his wry literary lyrics, and the reclusive artist returned to music last month with the self-titled debut album by his new band Purple Mountains. The group was scheduled to start a North American tour this weekend.

Berman also published the poetry collection Actual Air and cartoon collection The Portable February. His final interview appeared on the Ringer last month. “I take pride in the fact that I can walk away from things,” Berman said in his Chicago apartment. “My willingness to walk away has protected me, I realize that now.”

Berman is survived by his wife Cassie. Read a collection of artists’ tributes here.