I had originally planned to post my most-Fridays list of inspiration today, but with Alex Chilton’s passing on Wednesday evening, I think the day is better devoted to rounding up some of the best writing about Chilton out there.
Alex Chilton had a hit at 16, fronting the Box Tops for “The Letter”, and paved the way for college rock by bridging between the Beatles and R.E.M. with the tragically underknown Memphis/Ardent Studios band Big Star. (You actually know them; “In The Street”, a Big Star song, is the theme music for That ’70s Show, in the form of a Cheap Trick cover.) Big Star invented “power pop” and have been the soundtrack to my life countless hours and days over the last few years, after Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers turned me on to them in 2008.
I was devastated by Chilton’s death; am devastated, absolutely bereft. I didn’t expect it, but it is true. I didn’t love him as long as many people did, but I loved both Chilton and Big Star desperately and fiercely and I wish I’d had them in high school, when I could have used them. He was a legend of American rock music who is hardly known by the general public today; if it takes his death for the world to stand up and pay attention to what Big Star was doing, so be it, but I am heartbroken.
- This photo destroys me. Gorgeous.
- The AV Club’s obituary is among the best.
- The initial report from Chilton’s hometown paper, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.
- A gorgeous, heartbreaking 2007 blog post from Chuck Prophet on what Chilton meant to him.
- My friend J. writing about Chilton for Aquarium Drunkard.
- A post from a Pop Matters writer who’s at SXSW right now, but who stayed home from shows last night to write about what Chilton meant to her instead.
- Cover Lay Down shares covers of Big Star/Chilton songs.
- Carrie Brownstein on what Chilton meant to her, and to musicians everywhere.
- Mac McCaughan of Superchunk,Portastatic and Merge Records on Chilton.
- Pitchfork on Chilton.
- Paul Westerberg of the Replacements on losing his mentor. (Westerberg memorialized Chilton in song years ago, with the Replacements’ track “Alex Chilton”. i’m in love with that song)
- A post from NPR and from the LA Times blog Pop & Hiss on the memorial show at SXSW.
One of the things that has moved me most in the wake of Chilton’s death is the breadth of heartbreak and we’ll miss you posts; my Twitter list, filled with musicians of all ages and from all genres, filled up immediately with disbelief and grief. My music blogs, again across genres and topics, are united in their sadness at this loss. Even my travel blogs, my photography blogs, everyone is posting about how deep his death cuts them. Alex Chilton was universal. He was beloved and formative for everyone.
ETA, 03/23/2010: I’m still collecting the best links and posts about Chilton, adding to the list as I find them. More for myself than anyone else, but just FYI.