“The light of my life is going out tonight as the sun sinks in the west,” David Berman sings on “Darkness and Cold,” a single from what would tragically become his final album Purple Mountains. Berman had been on a decade long hiatus after the dissolution of his landmark project Silver Jews, returning last month with a new band dubbed Purple Mountains. Berman was found dead last week of an apparent suicide.
More than just a musician, Berman was a poet. Not just in the sense that all lyricists are prescribed that title and not just because he put out books of poetry. Berman wrote in prose that would sink beneath your skin, reach into your gut, and sit there with you. Never one to hide his melancholy, “Darkness and Cold” exemplifies just one singular instance of his prolific profundity.
He sings of band-aid pink corvettes, depression, and losing control. Berman could always turn a phrase that could knock you over, but even his simplest phrases could cut you like a knife. When he sings the titular chorus in his wavering baritone –“darkness and cold, darkness and cold” – you feel the desperation lingering beneath those words. A profound understanding of the human condition, something he’d wage war against again and again in his work.
We’re still reckoning with the idea of a world without Berman. But we have this last gift to play on repeat, searching for meaning between the darkness and cold.
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