Songwriter and poet David Berman, known for his indie rock band projects Silver Jews and Purple Mountains, died on Wednesday at age 52. Berman’s longtime record label, Drag City, announced his death via Twitter on Wednesday, but did not confirm his cause of death.
“A great friend and one of the most inspiring individuals we’ve ever known is gone,” Drag City wrote. “Rest easy, David.”
Prior to his death, Berman this month was set to begin a tour with Purple Mountains that would have brought the group to World Cafe Live here in Philly on Aug. 12. The tour has since been canceled.
Berman, a longtime musician, began fronting Silver Jews in the late 1980s, when he established the group in Hoboken, New Jersey with friends Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich, later of the indie rock band Pavement. The group’s first studio album came in 1994 with Starlite Walker, which was followed by five more studio releases before Silver Jews’ breakup in 2009. Throughout Silver Jews’ run, the group underwent many lineup changes, with Berman serving as its lone constant member. Their final album, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, was released in 2008.
While primarily known as a musician, Berman also was a noted poet, having released his first collection of poetry, Actual Air, in 1999, followed by The Portable February in 2009.
Purple Mountains, meanwhile, came about in 2018 after a decade-long break from music. The group released their first single, “All My Happiness is Gone.” A self-titled studio album was released in July.
Throughout his life, Berman struggled with substance abuse issues and depression, and attempted suicide in 2003.