RIP Vic Chesnutt [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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12-25-2009, 11:23 AM
Vic Chesnutt apparently committed suicide yesterday at the age of 45. Dude was obviously in a lot of pain and according to reports was also in a terrible financial situation due to his medical bills (despite being insured). I wasn't an ardent fan but I've always admired his music and had seen him live a couple of times, including a captivating opening set for Jonathan Richman a few years back. I hope he's at peace now. Reports at all the usual places on the internet.


12-25-2009, 02:00 PM
He was quite a talented guy who was left a paraplegic from a car accident back in '83, and I'm sure he suffered more than most of us could ever imagine. I don't ever want to understand suicide, but I guess there are people who can only take so much.

12-25-2009, 02:18 PM
Reports now are saying he may not have passed away and is rather in a coma... it's still a developing story.


12-25-2009, 02:35 PM
...Kristen Hirsch, a great singer in her own right, and she's saying he's in a coma. Other reports agree and also state it's from an attempted suicide. I guess we'll have to hope for the best.

12-26-2009, 04:30 AM
Vic Chesnutt, Singer and Songwriter, Dies at 45

Published: December 25, 2009

Vic Chesnutt, whose darkly comic songs about mortality, vulnerability and life’s simple joys made him a favorite of critics and fellow musicians, died Friday in a hospital in Athens, Ga., a family spokesman said. He was 45 and lived in Athens.

He had been in a coma after taking an overdose of muscle relaxants earlier this week, said the spokesman, Jem Cohen.

Mr. Chesnutt had a cracked, small voice but sang with disarming candor about a struggle for peace in a life filled with pain. A car crash at age 18 left him partly paralyzed, and he performed in a wheelchair.

The accident, he has said, focused him as a songwriter, and it became the subject of some of his earliest recordings. “I’m not a victim/Oh, I am an atheist,” Mr. Chesnutt sang in “Speed Racer,” from his first album, “Little,” produced by Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and released in 1990.

In a recent interview on the public radio show “Fresh Air,” he told Terry Gross: “It was only after I broke my neck and even like maybe a year later that I really started realizing that I had something to say.”

Although he never had blockbuster record sales, Mr. Chesnutt was a prolific songwriter who remained a mainstay on the independent music circuit for two decades, making more than 15 albums.

Musicians flocked to work with him: he recorded with the bands Lambchop, Widespread Panic and Elf Power, as well as the jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and in a recent burst of creative activity he made two albums with a band that included Guy Picciotto of Fugazi and members of the Montreal indie-rock group Thee Silver Mt. Zion.

Because of Mr. Chesnutt’s fondness for simple guitar chords — after his accident his fingers could no longer form the jazzier ones, he has said — his work was often described as a variant of folk-rock. But the sound of his albums changed with their revolving collaborators, from stark recordings of Mr. Chesnutt alone to finessed full-band arrangements.

The constant in his career was a keen poetic intelligence that could be sardonic or unsparingly confessional. “I’m not an optimist/I’m not a realist/I might be a sub-realist,” he sang on his 1996 album “About to Choke.”

Born in Jacksonville, Fla., on Nov. 12, 1964, James Victor Chesnutt was adopted and grew up in Zebulon, Ga.; his grandfather gave him guitar lessons, having him transpose “Sweet Georgia Brown” into every key in the scale. He was injured in 1983, while driving drunk, he later said, and shortly thereafter moved to Athens and became a regular at the 40 Watt Club, where he was seen by Mr. Stipe.

A documentary, “Speed Racer: Welcome to the World of Vic Chesnutt,” was released in 1993, and in 1996 his songs were performed by Madonna, the Indigo Girls, Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M. and others for “Sweet Relief II: The Gravity of the Situation,” an album that benefited the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, a nonprofit group that offers musicians medical support.

His survivors include his wife, Tina Whatley Chesnutt; a sister, Lorinda Crane; and nine nieces and nephews.

Mr. Chesnutt was an outspoken critic of the health care system, saying in his recent interview on “Fresh Air” that operations had left him deeply in debt. In his music, he was also frank about his own problems, including suicide, which he had attempted several times.

He sings about suicide in “Flirted With You All My Life,” from his recent album “At the Cut,” describing death as a lover he must break up with because his accomplishments in life are incomplete:

When you touched a friend of mine I thought I would lose my mind

But I found out with time that really, I was not ready, no no, cold death

Oh death, I’m really not ready

12-26-2009, 08:45 AM
Sad ending, but he did leave with a lot of fans. I haven't followed him in recent times, but The Salesman and Bernadette will always stand as a favorite. Some may recall a song from it on that old Twilight comp of mine that made the rounds here many years ago, that was kind of the music he made. With an understated backing by Lambchop, as they do so well, that seemed to fit the music and the words perfectly. I never felt that song was framed right on the comp to do him justice, just kind of slips by, but I guess that's what I wanted at the time.

12-26-2009, 09:31 AM
That really is a sad ending. I saw him open for Wilco 10 or 12 years ago and while I've never been a big fan, I have respected him as a talent and what he was doing.

12-26-2009, 09:55 AM
Oh man, did you guys see this?

What this man was capable of was superhuman. Vic was brilliant, hilarious and necessary; his songs messages from the ether, uncensored. He developed a guitar style that allowed him to play bass, rhythm and lead in the same song — this with the movement of only two fingers. His fluid timing was inimitable, his poetry untainted by influences. He was my best friend.

I never saw the wheelchair—it was invisible to me—but he did. When our dressing room was up a flight of stairs, he'd casually tell me that he'd meet me in the bar. When we both contracted the same illness, I told him it was the worst pain I'd ever felt. "I don't feel pain," he said. Of course. I'd forgotten. When I asked him to take a walk down the rain spattered sidewalk with me, he said his hands would get wet. Sitting on stage with him, I would request a song and he'd flip me off, which meant, "This finger won't work today." I saw him as unassailable—huge and wonderful, but I think Vic saw Vic as small, broken. And sad.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to listen to his music again, but I know how vital it is that others hear it. When I got the phone call I'd been dreading for the last fifteen years, I lost my balance. My whole being shifted to the left; I couldn't stand up without careening into the wall and I was freezing cold. I don't think I like this planet without Vic; I swore I would never live here without him. But what he left here is the sound of a life that pushed against its constraints, as all lives should. It's the sound of someone on fire. It makes this planet better.

And if I'm honest with myself, I admit that I still feel like he's here, but free of his constraints. Maybe now he really is huge. Unbroken. And happy.



12-26-2009, 04:07 PM
Oh man, did you guys see this?


It's amazing to me how some people can be so expressive, and I doubt she had to try all that hard. I only have her Strange Angels cd, but I'm not sure why only that one. I guess she just flies under the radar so I don't think about her very often. In fact, when I saw her tweets about Vic, it was likely the first time I'd thought of her or saw her name in many years. Now I'll have to remember to pop in that cd first chance I get.

12-26-2009, 05:52 PM
She had a number of solo singles available in FLAC for free, plus there has been a bunch of free 50 Foot Wave stuff available in FLAC as well. Not sure if they're still up, but if you're interested in hearing her more recent music, it may be worth a check.

12-26-2009, 06:31 PM
...but if you're interested in hearing her more recent music, it may be worth a check.

Her brilliant duet with Robert Fisher on "The Ghost of the Girl in the Well" from Regard the End will pretty much always define "haunting" to me. Kristin Hersh is class.