It has only been one day since Vic Chesnutt died of an apparent suicide at the age of 45, but memorials are already flooding in from friends, collaborators, fans, and new fans of the departed singer/songwriter.
“I was at the hospital yesterday when he passed,” said Michael Stipe (who produced Chesnutt’s first two albums) in a telephone interview with NPR. What will he remember most about Chesnutt? “I think the thing I would have to say is his laugh, and his ability to take a kind of dark moment and twist it and make everyone laugh at themselves,” Stipe said after getting briefly choked up over the question. “He had a brilliant way of doing that and I will miss that for the rest of my life.”
In a post on R.E.M.’s official site, fellow Georgia-based musician and reclusive Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum made a profound statement about Chesnutt:
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.
Rock legend Patti Smith also offered a brilliantly worded memorial to Chesnutt, taking comfort in the idea that his statements and lyrics may have presaged his death, but they also offered a kind of hopeful harbinger. “Before he made an album he said he was a bum,” Smith said on Christmas Day. “Now he is in flight bumming round beyond the little room [a reference to the song “Supernatural”]. With his angel voice.”