Singer-songwriter, David Berman, the former frontman of the acclaimed indie band Silver Jews has passed away today at the age of 52. Drag City, a Chicago based record label which released all of the group’s material following their 1994 album Starlite Walker confirmed his passing in a statement, but did not provide the circumstances regarding his deat.
“We couldn’t be more sorry to tell you this. David Berman passed away earlier today,” Drag City wrote in a statement. “A great friend and one of the most inspiring individuals we’ve ever known is gone. Rest easy, David.”
Berman took a hiatus from music in 2009, and began to focus on his own writing and promoting social justice causes. In addition to his prolific work as a musician, Berman was a published author, releasing a poetry collection, Actual Air, in 1999.
“I guess I am moving over to another category. Screenwriting or Muckraking,” Berman wrote on Drag City’s message board in 2009, before his last Silver Jews show. “I’ve got to move on. Can’t be like all the careerists doncha know. I’m forty two and I know what to do. I’m a writer, see? … I always said we would stop before we got bad. If I continue to record I might accidentally write the answer song to [R.E.M.’s] ‘Shiny Happy People.’”
In addition, Berman explained the inner turmoil he faced as the son of lobbyist Richard Berman, who lobbied for causes that he was against. The duo became estranged in 2006, and encouraged the younger Berman to promote social justice causes.
“My heart was constantly on fire for justice. I could find no relief,” Berman explained. “This winter, I decided that the SJs were too small of a force to ever come close to undoing a millionth of all the harm he has caused. To you and everyone you know … Previously I thought, through songs and poems and drawings, I could find and build a refuge away from his world. But there is the matter of Justice. And I’ll tell you it’s not just a metaphor. The desire for it actually burns. It hurts. There needs to be something more. I’ll see what that might be.”
UPDATE (8/9): Medical examiners have concluded that Berman’s death was caused by suicide by hanging. The beloved singer was found in his Brooklyn apartment Wednesday, according to press reports.