Purple Mountains (RIP David Berman, August 2019)

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these hermetically-sealed obituaries to be packaged and sold so people can read about them for 30 seconds and then maybe click on an ad

I gotta say, I really dont get the characterization of pieces like that NYer obit as being crass commercial clickbait cash-ins? Surely there are more popular and clickworthy things that could have taken up that space than a personal essay-obit on a marginal poet-songwriter who probably didn't sell 20k copies of any single album? Like whatever your criticisms of that piece might be, clearly the writer was a huge fan and had an honest connection to him & his music and wanted to express something about it. Whether she did his life & work justice or not, she obviously wasn't sitting thinking "I've gotta quickly churn some uplifting words out about this ultra-minor-celebrity to get those newyorker.com pageviews up to our weekly quota!"

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Friday, 9 August 2019 22:37 (eleven months ago) link

I get that people feel protective of him but it's not exactly like post-Cobain vultures feasting on his legacy. A lot of writers had a strong enough connection to his music taht they felt compelled to write something, and in the 24hrs they had to turn around a piece some hit the mark better than others but I dont think anyone is getting rich off of David Berman obits this week.

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Friday, 9 August 2019 22:38 (eleven months ago) link

Of note:

Patiently waiting forever for the album made by Berman, Bejar and Malkmus, which Berman rejected on completion.

— Judy MillerSilverman (@motormouthmedia) August 9, 2019

I recall seeing it on the Dropbox I share with the studio and thinking I shouldn’t listen to someone’s unfinished album. There is a code there.

— Carl Newman (@ACNewman) August 9, 2019

Ned Raggett, Friday, 9 August 2019 22:40 (eleven months ago) link

Yeah that’s pretty wild — is it the same songs as on the purple mountains LP or other stuff entirely?

tylerw, Friday, 9 August 2019 22:44 (eleven months ago) link

excellent posts from fgti

budo jeru, Friday, 9 August 2019 22:55 (eleven months ago) link

“Diamonds in the Mine” feels in some ways like the ur-text for Purple Mountains.

... (Eazy), Friday, 9 August 2019 23:44 (eleven months ago) link

Pulled up my 2008 tour diary tonight. From the week opening for #SilverJews pic.twitter.com/3H7m0aOjmT

— Ryan H. Walsh (@JahHills) August 9, 2019

... (Eazy), Friday, 9 August 2019 23:55 (eleven months ago) link

I really dont get the characterization of pieces like that NYer obit as being crass commercial clickbait cash-ins?

Just to clarify, I haven't read it, but I don't have a problem with it. I was just responding to dell's grievance about the alleged tone of this eulogy piece in particular by saying that I can empathize with the frustration of having to see these sorts of things under these sorts of circumstances in general ("hey, someone died, so here's a tribute").

del griffith, Saturday, 10 August 2019 00:02 (eleven months ago) link

thanks del griffith for yr post upthread (I should change my name if I keep on posting!)

speaking for myself, yeah, yah i don't think it's like, reflexx quickbait but it's irritating nonetheless. maybe none of us know how to best write about the recently departed but for whatever reason that piece just seemed like an empty and fairly depressing neoliberal exercise. but whatever. that's just one dell's take.

dell (del), Saturday, 10 August 2019 00:16 (eleven months ago) link

I hear ya. If one doesn't make a living stringing together words for people to read, then one would have no reason to rush to put out some words for sale about someone suddenly departed. The things you've said in the past, and everything that will eventually be written about them anyway, should be good enough for now.

(I think you were here first, so that'd be on me! I'm probably due for a name change/message board resignation anyway if I'm getting emotionally invested enough to interject myself into conversations about issues that I believe deep down are pointless)

del griffith, Saturday, 10 August 2019 00:34 (eleven months ago) link

the double del of heat

del griffith, Saturday, 10 August 2019 00:34 (eleven months ago) link

this song never needed that pre-chorus anyway


del griffith, Saturday, 10 August 2019 00:37 (eleven months ago) link

aw man, that is a good song.

postscript of sorts, i recently took a trip out west and stopped at an antique store in antelope valley w my girlfriend. the proprietor was otherwordly charming and warned us that there might be flash floods coming over the mountains before we walked in. she was really beautiful. she had some eighties-era country music blasting throughout the store and now I wish I had followed up on my my thought of asking her exactly what it was! It was all one artist, one cd (she was old school that way) but it was very much like the tune you posted above. The funny or not-so-funny thing is, ever since that trip i have been wanting to listen to country music before, during, and after. Whether Beachwood Sparks pastiches or Waylon late night songs. The landscape hit me hard, it was right on that part where nevada slants and you can be in California in an instant. This country is insanely beautiful. Damn.

dell (del), Saturday, 10 August 2019 01:32 (eleven months ago) link

Berman really helped 20 year old me from the south who always associated country with authority and conservatism appreciate country again. just picked up a george strait record at an antique store recently!

Heez, Saturday, 10 August 2019 01:39 (eleven months ago) link

(unrelated xpost!) and also I was doing a dad visit so no doubt I had some berman-esque thoughts in my mind.

I guess where I stumble is trying to grasp where MAGA-esque chuds get by in that environment. When I am out there I feel absolute awe. I dunno where the gross guns and other stuff comes from.

dell (del), Saturday, 10 August 2019 01:44 (eleven months ago) link

Interesting enough, my family is planning a trip to Williamsburg, VA where he was born. I wonder if there's a local record store around there or something.

Piano Mouth, Saturday, 10 August 2019 01:45 (eleven months ago) link

Listening to The Arizona Record for the first time in forever and it's inspiring to recognize the leap from, say, "The Wild Palms" to, I dunno, "I Remember Me" or [your favorite song].

j.o.h.n. (john. a resident of chicago.), Saturday, 10 August 2019 04:04 (eleven months ago) link

The NY Times obit has been updated with some details about his death (and a statement from his father). For those who are interested.

60... 90... 120 Minute IPA (morrisp), Saturday, 10 August 2019 07:35 (eleven months ago) link

Despite it coming back in print recently, his collection of poetry is still hard to get at the moment. It’s here:


“Self-Portrait at 28” is particularly special imo

circa1916, Saturday, 10 August 2019 07:41 (eleven months ago) link

thanks for that

Clay, Saturday, 10 August 2019 07:43 (eleven months ago) link

Despite it coming back in print recently, his collection of poetry is still hard to get at the moment.

As these things go, there was a statement on Twitter the other day from a publisher (PGM? PGB?) that there will be a reprint soon.

EvR, Saturday, 10 August 2019 08:27 (eleven months ago) link

from the updated nyt piece:

A spokeswoman for the city’s medical examiner said that Berman had hanged himself, and ruled it suicide.

je est un autre, l'enfer c'est les autres (alex in mainhattan), Saturday, 10 August 2019 12:00 (eleven months ago) link

I mean, we had been going under the reports that it was a suicide this whole time, but that still hurts to read. Suicides by hanging are also particularly sad for me.

☮ (peace, man), Saturday, 10 August 2019 12:21 (eleven months ago) link

somehow i had thought he had overdosed, hanging is indeed somehow a terrible way to go, one part being when the corpse is discovered.

je est un autre, l'enfer c'est les autres (alex in mainhattan), Saturday, 10 August 2019 12:35 (eleven months ago) link

I have had three friends kill themselves in the past ten years and they all hung themselves.

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Saturday, 10 August 2019 15:16 (eleven months ago) link

probably common knowledge among berman fans, but i didn't realize that (according to the intro to the PDF posted above) the final silver jews concert on jan 31, 2009, in the cavern, consisted of Berman's "15
favorite Silver Jews songs." here is that set:

We Are Real
Play Video
Trains Across the Sea
Play Video
How to Rent a Room
Play Video
Slow Education
Play Video
Play Video
What Is Not but Could Be If
Play Video
The Wild Kindness
Play Video
Room Games and Diamond Rain
Play Video
Suffering Jukebox
Play Video
I'm Getting Back Into Getting Back Into You
Play Video
Random Rules
Play Video
Play Video
We Could Be Looking for the Same Thing
Play Video
Pretty Eyes
Play Video
Smith & Jones Forever

Karl Malone, Saturday, 10 August 2019 16:00 (eleven months ago) link

jfc i hate the internet. it copied and pasted a bunch of "play video" links. but you get the idea.

play video

Karl Malone, Saturday, 10 August 2019 16:00 (eleven months ago) link

This may not be for everyone and I haven't seen it linked, but I think this is very lovely.


Yerac, Saturday, 10 August 2019 16:04 (eleven months ago) link

wow Smith & Jones Forever is my favorite SJ song too!! ;_;
whenever my brain is idle i keep thinking about "the wild kindness"

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Saturday, 10 August 2019 16:15 (eleven months ago) link

grass grows in the icebox
the year ends in the next room

JoeStork, Saturday, 10 August 2019 16:32 (eleven months ago) link

it may be to dcb’s credit as an enigmatic poet or the fault of my aging brain that for exactly one second I thought “which b side was play video and why did he feel the need to use it as a refrain”

Clay, Saturday, 10 August 2019 17:46 (eleven months ago) link

video of 6 songs from that Cumberland Caverns show - the last SJ show:


You get a few glimpses of William Tyler on guitar, and Bob drums on Trains Across the Sea, then says a few words to the audience. Berman also tells a funny story related to the pipe organ and chandelier in the cave.

alpine static, Saturday, 10 August 2019 17:48 (eleven months ago) link

the fact that this was - presumably? - filmed for the Bluegrass Underground TV series gives me hope that pro footage of the entire show may someday be released. maybe?

alpine static, Saturday, 10 August 2019 17:53 (eleven months ago) link

So may I turn a light off and embrace
With resignation, better still with grace,
The dreamless sleep that all awake must face.

meaulnes, Saturday, 10 August 2019 23:41 (eleven months ago) link

Sleeping, it has been said, is the only love.

del griffith, Sunday, 11 August 2019 01:59 (eleven months ago) link

Thank god these songs are warm and fun when music gets added to all these lyrics.

... (Eazy), Sunday, 11 August 2019 03:44 (eleven months ago) link

Would be oppressively dark without it, yeah.

Since the song was released, have found myself idly singing the chorus to “all my happiness is gone” under my breath while just doing stuff around the house. Only half the time aware of how absurd that is.

circa1916, Sunday, 11 August 2019 04:33 (eleven months ago) link

Me too :/

60... 90... 120 Minute IPA (morrisp), Sunday, 11 August 2019 04:57 (eleven months ago) link


it's an insanely catchy song. i know it's a direct rip of a new wave song i can't remember the title of right now, too, but as with all DB songs, the lyrics lift it completely beyond that

Karl Malone, Sunday, 11 August 2019 05:04 (eleven months ago) link

I Melt with You, but only kinda

circa1916, Sunday, 11 August 2019 05:20 (eleven months ago) link


flappy bird, Sunday, 11 August 2019 05:24 (eleven months ago) link

I sang the chorus of darkness and cold while pushing my 1 year old on the swing today.

triple-washed (Sufjan Grafton), Sunday, 11 August 2019 06:03 (eleven months ago) link

and I sang it entirely bc it is stuck in my head

triple-washed (Sufjan Grafton), Sunday, 11 August 2019 06:05 (eleven months ago) link

That’s the other one I have in my head a lot... I assume the perverse catchiness of those particular choruses, with those particular lyrics, is “intentional.”

60... 90... 120 Minute IPA (morrisp), Sunday, 11 August 2019 06:40 (eleven months ago) link

The scale of the outpouring of grief/celebration/tributes is amazing

husserl gang (rip van wanko), Sunday, 11 August 2019 08:34 (eleven months ago) link

I sang the chorus of darkness and cold while pushing my 1 year old on the swing today.

My 2 year old loves to sing along to this and cutely request darkness and cold

Heez, Sunday, 11 August 2019 13:30 (eleven months ago) link

A friend used to hang out with David back in Virginia and wander abandoned foundries with him. This pic was when he was in a band called Doom, with an infinity symbol instead of the o's.

Cow_Art, Sunday, 11 August 2019 14:53 (eleven months ago) link


tylerw, Sunday, 11 August 2019 15:02 (eleven months ago) link

Was his hair new wave or human error?

I was traveling with my family in Savannah last week when the news about David came in. I stayed up late that night, drinking whiskey and listening to his music on shuffle in the dark. Throughout the trip we were driving around, seeing the deep south through car windows and it was a good fit. So many words hit harder than they used to.

Last night I rewatched Silver Jew and it was tough going, especially the end when he is praying and crying.

Listened to Starlight Walker on repeat flying back home. It's the album I've always neglected because I like the singer-songwriter stuff more than the Pavement sounding jams. But it clicked this time and I really enjoyed it. Lookout Mountain is my favorite though. I came to the band late in the game and never understood why that album isn't as beloved as others. Candy Jail is so great.

Cow_Art, Sunday, 11 August 2019 15:05 (eleven months ago) link

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