David Berman, founder of indie rockers Silver Jews, dies

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NEW YORK (AP) — David Berman, founder of the indie rockers Silver Jews, whose witty lyrics and deadpan delivery influenced scores of bands, has died. He was 52.

Berman’s death Wednesday was confirmed by his father and his record label, Drag City. A cause of death was not disclosed.

Berman, a singer, songwriter and guitarist, was the only constant member of Silver Jews, which began with Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich, who both had ties with the band Pavement. The trio met as students at the University of Virginia.

Silver Jews disbanded in 2009 after six studio albums, starting with “Starlite Walker” in 1994 and ending with “Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea” in 2008. Now magazine called him one of the “most brilliantly sardonic voices in indie rock.”

Berman told The New York Times in 2005 that he chose his band’s name while working as a security guard at the Whitney Museum after seeing a sign that read “Silver Jewelry.” The name is also slang for blond Jews.

He was known for an offbeat, eclectic musical style and for writing sardonic and poetic lyrics. On “Trains Across the Sea,” he sang: “In 27 years, I’ve drunk 50,000 beers/ And they just wash against me/ Like the sea into a pier.” Berman suffered from addiction and depression.

“Despite his difficulties, he always remained my special son. I will miss him more than he was able to realize,” Rick Berman, his father, said in a statement.

Tributes also poured in from social media from musicians and artists, including from Marc Maron, who said: “One of the great tortured poetic souls is gone. A master of beautiful darkness.” The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle called Berman “of, loosely, my generation of songwriters, the best of us.” Aaron Dessner, a member of The National, called him a “massive talent and a huge influence on us.”

Berman resurfaced this year in the band Purple Mountains, releasing an album by the same name with the songs “Maybe I’m the Only One for Me” and “She’s Making Friends, I’m Turning Stranger.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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