James Mercer must not be the jealous type. His partner in Broken Bells, Danger…
- Posted on Dec 24th 2010 11:30AM by James Sullivan
As those titles suggest, Chesnutt, who was confined to a wheelchair after a car crash at age 18, struggled with more than his share of bleak thoughts. One of his last recordings, his contribution to the Dangermouse-Sparklehorse collaboration, 'Dark Night of the Soul,' was aptly titled 'Grim Augury.' Chesnutt died on Christmas Day 2009 after falling into a coma from an overdose of prescription drugs.
But a year after his suicide, the singer continues to be fondly remembered by the friends he made in the music world, who were many. Both 'Dark Night of the Soul' and the recent self-titled album by Chesnutt's fellow Athens, Ga., residents Elf Power, are dedicated to his memory. Williams' tribute song will be a return favor of sorts: Chesnutt once wrote a song called 'Lucinda Williams.'
Soul Asylum, one of the groups that contributed to 'Sweet Relief II: The Gravity of the Situation,' the 1996 benefit album that helped bring Chesnutt wider recognition, covered his song 'When I Ran Off and Left Her' at their hometown show at First Avenue in Minneapolis last week.
Asked by American Songwriter magazine in an interview this week to name one song she wishes she'd written, Kristin Hersh picked her friend Chesnutt's 'Myrtle.' Hersh was another contributor to 'Sweet Relief II,' as were the Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M. and Joe Henry, as well as his sister-in-law Madonna.
After Chesnutt's death at age 45, Michael Stipe, a great admirer who produced Chesnutt's first two albums, told NPR he felt Chesnutt was "one of our greatest songwriters, and one of our greatest voices." Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel was quoted on the website of Chesnutt's label, Constellation Records: He moved to Athens, he said, "in search of God, but what I discovered instead was Vic Chesnutt."
That's what you'd call high praise.