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VIC CHESNUTT [1964-2009]

"We have lost one of our great ones."

-- Michael Stipe

"I flew around a little room once." A line from Supernatural. He was just that. He possessed an unearthly energy and yet was humanistic with the common man in mind. He was entirely present and entirely somewhere else. A mystical somewhere else. A child and an old guy as he called himself. Before he made an album he said he was a bum. Now he is in flight bumming round beyond the little room. With his angel voice.

-- Patti Smith dec 25 2009

"in 1991 i moved to athens georgia in search of god, but what I discovered instead was vic chesnutt. hearing his music completely transformed the way i thought about writing songs, and i will forever be in his debt."

-- jeff mangum, neutral milk hotel

The most important story to report now is not Vic's death but a life and work overflowing with insight, humor, and yes, resilience. This, after all, was the man who wrote: "I thought I had a calling, anyway, I just kept dialing." Sixteen extraordinary albums, five in the last couple of years; countless live shows so powerful and sublime they deeply altered the lives of those on the stage with Vic and those looking up, yes up, at him. The second most important story here has to do with a broken health care system depriving so many of the help they need to stay around and stay sane, and a society that never balks at providing more money for more wars but fights tooth and nail against decent care for its citizens. Vic's death, just so you all know, did not come at the end of some cliche downward spiral. He was battling deep depression but also at the peak of his powers, and with the help of friends and family he was in the middle of a desperate search for help. The system failed to provide it. I miss him terribly.

-- Jem Cohen: Filmmaker / North Star Deserter producer

Years ago upon discovery, West of Rome consoled me when I was going under. A life saver with the straight story. I followed since then from a distance. Vic was a unique being, mind, voice. No one spoke or made music like that, with that particular timbre, vocabulary and perception. Fierce and direct or levitated, whimsical and ornamental, he always cut to the bone. And past that, to the soul. Its a shame. A national tragedy, when you look at the issues being faced.

-- Mark McElhattan / Film curator, New York Film Festival



Vic Chesnutt recorded with many different people for all kinds of labels, but he never made an album like his debut on Vapor Records. Chesnutt's first two releases were produced by R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, and from there he was featured in the PBS documentary Speed Racer and his songs were recorded for Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation. A wide range of artists including Garbage, Madonna, Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M. and Live all covered Chesnutt originals. He recorded with other groups like Widespread Panic and Lambchop and musicians as varied as Bill Frisell and Fugazi's Guy Picciotto. Chesnutt recently performed on Cowboy Junkie's Trinity Revisited, with others and over a dozen different releases of his own.

Skitter On Take-Off allowed Vic Chesnutt to create his most dramatic album yet, recording devastating songs like "Rips in the Fabric" and "Dick Cheney" live with no overdubs. This album became a unique addition to his history, and allowed the singer-songwriter the chance to collaborate with an important influence. He said at the time: "I'm honored to work with Jonathan Richman. Over the years he's taken me under his wing and mentored me in a very meaningful way, truly shaping me into the songwriter and performer I am today. And it is an ongoing process." Chesnutt and Richman's work together is one for the ages.

Vic Chesnutt - vocals, guitar
Jonathan Richman - guitar, harmonium
Tommy Larkins - drums