Skip to content

Stephen Malkmus, Mountain Goats, More React to David Berman’s Death

The great Silver Jews songwriter and poet David Berman has died at 52. As Berman’s longtime record label Drag City put it: “A great friend and one of the most inspiring individuals we’ve ever known is gone. Rest easy, David.”

In a ritual we could not enjoy less, we are collecting reactions from the many artists paying tribute to the indie rock veteran, who released his final album as Purple Mountains last month. This post may be updated as the news reaches more of those who were touched by Berman’s words.

Stephen Malkmus: “His death is fucking dark ..depression is crippling.. he was a one of a kinder the songs he wrote were his main passion esp at the end. Hope death equals peace cuz he could sure use it”

The Mountain Goats: “Of, loosely, my generation of songwriters, the best of us. This loss is devastating. Rest easy, fellow traveler.”

Superchunk: “You’re just listening to someone’s music one day assuming there will be more and then they’re gone. Huge loss. Thankful for the records we have & thinking about everyone who knew David Berman, played & worked with him. #RIP”

Japanese Breakfast: “Jesus Christ David Berman you fucking legend my heart is sinking … We don’t know what happened but it makes me fucking terrified of myself of this job of this sorrow. Of this thing we get asked about as cathartic but never really is.”

Speedy Ortiz’ Sadie Dupuis: “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”

Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner: “heavy heart. thank you david berman. we were so lucky to have had you here for a while.”

The National’s Aaron Dessner: “Very very sad to hear David Berman has passed away. A massive talent and a huge influence on us. RIP”

Ted Leo: “I’m so sad to hear that David Berman is gone. He was a great great talent and a nice guy that I only knew from random passings at random festivals, but I’ll miss him, and my heart goes out to everyone he loved and everyone who loved him and loves him still.”

El-P: “rest in peace to the great David Berman”

Marc Maron: “Fuck. Goddamnit. RIP David Berman. One of the great tortured poetic souls is gone. A master of beautiful darkness.”

The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn: “Crushed. So much beauty. RIP DB. This one: Well the water looks like jewelry / When it’s coming out the spout / And nothing could make me feel better / Than a wet kiss on the mouth / Fake ID’s and honey bees / The jagged skyline of car keys / I never knew a bird could fly so low”

Oneohtrix Point Never: “tried but couldn’t even bring myself to quote DB. when poets leave us their testaments feel like staring into the sun”

Animal Collective’s Deakin: “Go and listen to this man’s music. Listen to his shakey and vulnerable voice spin words like no other. Love your people and do your best.”

Deerhunter: “Words cannot begin to describe how well these words describe the sadness and beauty of the vacant lot called our world. Horrifying that such a clear view of the void can be fatal. Rest In Peace DB.”

The Avalanches: “We have no words to describe how we feel this morning to learn of the loss of David Berman. All our love goes out to his family & loved ones, the Drag City family and the musicians who journeyed with him. On a personal level David was always there for me throughout the ups and downs of life and provided much guidance, solace and humor reflecting on our shared struggles.  You helped me so much David. His book Actual Air remains a standalone work of real beauty and a heartbreaking look at the magic inherent in the day-to-day.  Farewell David . You were the light by which we travelled.”

UPDATE 8/8: Richard Berman, David’s estranged father, a controversial (to put it mildly) lobbyist, has issued a statement on his son’s passing: “Despite his difficulties, he always remained my special son. I will miss him more than he was able to realize.”