Alex Chilton dies at age 59

The former Big Star singer died of a heart attack on March 17

Many have probably heard about the sudden death of Alex Chilton, one of the main songwriters behind the beloved Big Star canon. Actually, until his death, he may have been one of the world’s most beloved living songwriters. Granted, he was never really famous or anything. But, his songs were so great that the people who did know about him will revere him and remember him forever.

Ever since Chilton passed, I have been getting email after email from friends, full of favorite Big Star lyrics, reminiscences of Big Star moments, and just general outpourings of emotion. It’s been pretty moving, really. Celebrities die every day, and there have been a lot of them passing recently. Chilton was different, though. He was a celebrity only to me and a fortunate few. Compared with the death of every other famous or artistic person in the past 5 years, Chilton’s felt more like the death of a friend. Obviously, we didn’t know him personally, but maybe we may as well have—the music he made was so sincere and soulful, and I believe every song was another version of him.

For the next week or so, my posts will be mostly Chilton-related. I’ve decided to go through and listen to every Chilton record I own. Yesterday, I spun the first two classic Big Star records, “#1 Record” and “Radio City”, both of which earn an easy 5-star rating in my book. Today, I’ll probably jam some “Third/Sister Lovers” (though it’s more appropriate for a gloomy Monday than a sunny Friday), and will most likely move onto Chilton’s solo works, “Like Flies on Sherbert” and “1970”. Eventually, I’ll get around to the other Big Star Albums, “Live at Columbia” and 2005’s comeback record “In Space”. There’s also plenty of other stuff, like the fairly new Big Star box set “Keep an Eye on the Sky”, their first live record, and “Beale Street Green”, a compilation of demos and outtakes. I’ll even be listening to The Box Tops, the Motown-esque band that jumpstarted Chilton’s music career at age sixteen.

The point is to celebrate the varied and brilliant work of a very eccentric and talented man, and to acknowledge that a good chunk of it is some of the best music ever committed to tape. The best stuff may have been released long ago, but it was nice to know the guy who did all of it was still walking around and causing a ruckus somewhere. Mr. Chilton, you will be missed. This is me saying goodbye, not goodnight—I could never put your music to bed in my heart.

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