R.I.P. David Berman of Silver Jews and Purple Mountains

Music News
Dusty Henry
photo by Cassie Berman

Songwriter and poet David Berman has passed away at 52. The news was confirmed by his label Drag City in a tweet this afternoon. Cause of death is currently unknown.

Berman is perhaps most known for his work with the seminal group Silver Jews, a group he founded with Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich – though Berman would be the only consistent member throughout the band’s tenure. Silver Jews released six studio albums between 1994 and 2008, including landmark releases like 1998’s American Water.

After releasing Silver Jews’ final album Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, Berman took a near decade long hiatus from music. He’d make two notable exceptions, collaborating with The Avalanches on a single in 2012 and later appearing on the band’s 2016 album Wildflower. Earlier this year, Berman finally made his formal return to music with a new project dubbed Purple Mountains, releasing their self-titled debut last month to critical acclaim.

Throughout his life, Berman engaged with various art forms – including cartooning and poetry. His first book of poetry, Actual Air, was released in 1999 and followed up a decade later with The Portable February.

In all of his work – musical, written, or drawn – Berman constantly found himself weighing heavy truths and reckoning with his own inner struggles. A poet in all senses of the word, to listen to Berman’s music was to get to know his perspective on the world around him. As we remember Berman’s life and legacy, join us in revisiting some of his work below.