I’ve just learned via Pitchfork that Chris Knox, of lo-fi New Zealand oddballs Tall Dwarfs, suffered a stroke last month and is currently recuperating at home. “It looks like it could be a long recovery process, but Chris is still Chris,” writes a friend in a statement posted online. On the bright side, that same statement says that a tribute album titled Stroke is already in the works, with covers of Knox’s tunes by artists including Jeff Mangum, Will Oldham, Guided By Voices, Yo La Tengo, Lou Barlow, the Mountain Goats, Bill Callahan, and Jay Reatard.
That’s a pretty awesome list. But the name that’s really jumping out for me is that of Jeff Mangum, the intensely private genius behind Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s no secret that Mangum is a friend of Knox’s: One of his rare public performances since NMH went on hiatus ten years ago was a 2001 gig with Knox in Auckland under the name World of Wild Beards Incorporated. You can hear a great live recording of Knox and Mangum covering John Lennon’s “Mother” at that show below. (Side note: I saw these two share a bill four years later when Tall Dwarfs opened for the reunited Olivia Tremor Control, who featured guest vocals from Mangum. During the Dwarfs’ set, Knox raced through the audience and inadvertently shouldered me in the ribs. This did not hinder my enjoyment of the show in the slightest.)
Details are scarce at the moment, but if it turns out that Mangum really has recorded a new cover of one of Chris Knox’s songs for this tribute, I’d say that’s a fairly huge deal for fans of both artists. Whatever Mangum’s involvement ends up being, though, this project is something to look forward to. It’s probably worth noting that you might already like Chris Knox’s music even if you don’t know it yet: His insanely hooky 2000 tune “It’s Love” soundtracked a Heineken ad last year.
So let’s hear it. Anyone else sending get-well wishes Knox’s way, and/or eager to hear Stroke? Which cover artists are you most excited about?