David Berman, singer-songwriter with indie band Silver Jews, dies at 52

Berman was also in the band Purple Mountains, a poet and a cartoonist. A cause of death is unknown.
Image: David Berman, Primavera Sound Festival - Barce
David Berman of The SIlver Jews performs in Spain on May 31, 2008.Gary Wolstenholme / Redferns/Getty Images file

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By Variety

David Berman, a singer-songwriter who formed the 1990s indie group Silver Jews, has died, according to his music label, Drag City. He was 52. An official cause of death has not been released.

He was due to start a tour with his new project Purple Mountains on Saturday in New York. The tour had set dates across the country, concluding in Los Angeles on Sept. 23. After Berman had taken a break from music for several years, Purple Mountains had released an album on July 12, which features songs including "All My Happiness Is Gone" and "Maybe I'm the Only One for Me."

Drag City, which has released albums by Silver Jews and Purple Mountains, called him "a great friend and one of the most inspiring individuals we've ever known."

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Berman had dealt with drug addiction for years and had survived several overdoses and at least one suicide attempt.

The Silver Jews, whose songs incorporated elements of noise and country music, rarely performed live but recorded six studio albums between 1994 and 2008, including "Starlite Walker" and "Tanglewood Numbers." They did tour in 2006, however, following the release of "Tanglewood Numbers."

He talked to Pitchfork about his stance on performing in 2005, "I believe that intermittent live performance has cut short the writing lives of touring musicians. If you are making an argument with history you don't waste your energy and brain cells on sales, publicity, relentless travel, and other adjoining tasks. The less my body moves, the more energy my brain has to write."

Berman started making music while living in Hoboken, N.J., starting Silver Jews with college friends Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich. Malkmus went on to form the indie rock group Pavement, but continued playing with Silver Jews, which had a number of different musicians over the years.

David Berman and The Silver Jews performs in United Kingdom on April 24, 2006.Yani Yordanova / Redferns/Getty Images file

The group disbanded after playing a final show on Jan. 31, 2009, in the 333-foot deep Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee.

Berman was also a cartoonist and poet, writing two books of poetry, "Actual Air" and "The Portable February."

Berman had written in a post on the Drag City Records message board about his anger with his father, gun and tobacco lobbyist, Richard Berman, from whom he was estranged.