On August 7th of 2019, Indie rock poet laureate and enigmatic Silver Jews frontman David Berman took his own life. For years previous he’d struggled with what he referred to as “treatment” resistant depression. A particularly sad aspect of his suicide is that a month earlier, on July 12th, Berman had made a triumphant return to the indie limelight with a new album from a new project under the name of Purple Mountains. This followed a ten-year hiatus following the dissolution of Silver Jews in 2009 after the release of their final album, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea in 2008.
Purple Mountains is a particularly bleak record. His depression, the death of his mother and recent separation from wife, Cassis Berman, all explored in forensic and often uncomfortable detail. Despite this, he seemed to have benefited from cathartic release of all of these pent-up emotions and was even looking forward to the upcoming tour in the August of 2019.
His suicide was felt keenly by the indie rock world. J Mascis, of Dinosaur Jr, succinctly tweeted “Fucking Shit, come on man this is BullShit” alongside a photo of Berman. Others, like Kurt Vile, Cat Power wrote long, thought provoking pieces about how much of an inspiration he was. Former Silver Jews members, Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich also tweeted in remembrance of their friend.
In June, he gave an interview to the Kreative Kontrol podcast, linked here. Berman gives a candid interview in which he discusses his father (ultra-conservative, union-busting lobbyist, Richard Berman), his depression, bereavement of his mother, separation and much more. Despite the subject matter, he sounds upbeat and optimistic about the future, especially in regard to his upcoming tour. If you have time, and you’re a fan, I strongly suggest listening to the interview as it is incredibly insightful and comforting to hear him sound almost comfortable with himself.
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