David Berman Dead at 52

The poet, writer and indie rock narrator was the force behind Silver Jews and Purple Mountains.

Earlier today, it was reported that beloved indie rock legend David Berman has passed away due to unknown circumstances.

Founding Silver Jews in 1989, Berman remained the only consistent member of the band (which also included Pavement members Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich) until personal demons and frustrations with his lobbyist father led him to end the project in 2009. Following a decade-long silence, Berman returned earlier this year as Purple Mountains, releasing a marvelous eponymous record just last month.

Berman’s greatest gift was his ability to translate his dry, sardonic wit into something honest and profound. His writings, whether with his music or his published poetry, always spilled with a warmth and wisdom that set him apart from his peers. 

Berman’s words could offer a chuckle, a helping hand, or they could completely reframe the most meaningless observations into something priceless. He could pass out on the 14th floor, and refer to the CPR as so erotic. He’d ask why roads were painted black, and then learn that it’s because “people leave and no highway will bring them back.” In a world he disowned, he always “[threw] his thoughts like tomahawks.”

His battles with mental health weren’t unknown. In the early 2000s he struggled with intense depression and substance abuse, which culminated in a failed suicide attempt in 2003. Even with the loss of his mother in 2016 and the dissolution of his marriage in 2018, Berman fought till the bitter end. He didn’t want to die. He only wanted to die in our eyes.

We sit here shocked at the untimely passing of one the greatest songwriters of an era, a man who intertwined himself with his own myth. “In 1984, [he] was hospitalized for approaching perfection.” Tonight, he’s moved upward to the heavens above.