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"I never travel far, without a little Big Star" ... Alex Chilton dies at age 59



Singer/guitarist Alex Chilton died Wednesday in New Orleans at age 59.

"Alex was an amazingly talented person, not just as a musician and vocalist and a songwriter, but he was intelligent and well read and interested in a wide number of music genres," said longtime friend John Fry, the owner of Memphis-based Ardent Studios.

Chilton's reign with the Memphis-born band Big Star lasted just a few years in the early '70s but it was enough to create three albums, all of which appear on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time: #1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers.

"What would be ideal would be to make a ton of money and have nobody know about you," Chilton told the Associated Press back in 1987. "Fame has a lot of baggage to carry around. I wouldn't want to be like Bruce Springsteen. I don't need that much money and wouldn't want to have 20 bodyguards following me."

Chilton's influence on bands from the '80s is said to be surpassed only by the Velvet Underground. As Whitney Matheson over at Pop Candy says today, "There's a good chance all of your favorite bands/musicians have covered Big Star at some point in their careers."

In 1987, the Replacements made their case for his legacy, releasing a song entitled simply Alex Chilton:

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round
They sing "I'm in love. What's that song?
I'm in love with that song."

The tributes to Alex Chilton are starting to fill the Internet. Here are some that caught my eye:

Ann Powers at the L.A. Times: "Chilton was a seasoned knockabout who insisted on showing me ... that history is simply what people make out of their damage and their rudeness, their lust and their ambitious beating hearts. For that lesson, and all the laughs, I will never forget Alex Chilton."

From the Commercial-Appeal in Memphis: "When some people pass, you say it was the end of an era. In this case, it's really true," said Van Duren, a fellow Memphis musician who knew Chilton for decades. "It puts an end to the Big Star thing, and that's a very sad thing."

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 2:57pm]


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