Kristin Hersh remembers her late friend Vic Chesnutt: 'I miss him more than I've missed anybody ever'

To say this is a difficult day for those who knew and cared about Vic Chesnutt, the singer-songwriter who died yesterday at age 45, can only be an understatement. “I miss him more than I’ve missed anybody ever,” Kristin Hersh (of Throwing Muses and solo fame) tells EW.com’s The Music Mix today, her voice heavy with emotion. “Fifteen years was not enough time to prepare for this. It’s just hard to imagine a world without Vic.”

Chesnutt became one of Hersh’s dearest friends in the mid-90s, when he was her opening act on a solo acoustic tour of Europe. “It’s hard not to get close with Vic,” she recalls. “He was wonderful. A lot of people don’t know that, because he liked to think of himself as an ornery character, but he wasn’t. He was a sweetheart, and hilarious, absolutely hilarious.” The two went on to collaborate and perform together often in subsequent years, most recently at an R.E.M. tribute concert at NYC’s Carnegie Hall this past March. “Vic and I were very, very much alike, and that’s part of why we were so close,” says Hersh. “I feel like the last of a species after he’s gone.”


Through those years, friends couldn’t help but be aware of Chesnutt’s struggles with depression. “Vic was a real songwriter. Unlike 99 percent of the musicians out there, who suck for money, he was in it, living the songs. That’s a hard way of life….I don’t know how this minute was different from all the other ones, that it took Vic away. But you could see it in his eyes. I didn’t think [a tragic death] was inevitable, but it was definitely always there.”

Up until recently, Hersh and Chesnutt were planning to record a new album and tour together this year. Now that he’s gone, she’s set up a website to raise funds for his widow, Tina. Fans have already donated thousands of dollars. “Vic’s medical bills were astronomical. Like most musicians, he didn’t have insurance for a long time, and then when he got insurance, they wouldn’t pay his bills. I know that he was about 50 grand in debt just for medical bills….[Fans’] generosity is unbelievable.”

Asked about the possibility of a posthumous tribute to Chesnutt’s work, Hersh laughs through the tears. “I imagine he would think that was goofy. He’s also a difficult musician to cover…That’s part of what was so beautiful about his playing, the fluid timing. That’s what was truly inimitable about him. You can’t be Vic. I don’t recommend covering his songs, even though it’s been done before and I’ve done it myself. Vic played his own music, and that’s the way it should have been played, not by us peasants.”

Right now, though, the tragedy of his death is still too fresh for her to listen to his music. “There are hardly any of his songs that were not my favorites,” Hersh says. “All week, I couldn’t take [Chesnutt’s 1998 album] The Salesman and Bernadette off. I had it on repeat over and over and over again. And then when I heard he was gone, I decided I wouldn’t be able to listen to it again.” Hersh pauses for a moment. “I hate the idea of him being in the past, but I don’t see how I can sit through one of his songs. There are so many memories — stupid memories, just hundreds and hundreds all at once. At least right now, I can’t really handle that.”

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
Friends respond to Vic Chesnutt’s death: Michael Stipe, Jeff Mangum, Patti Smith
Vic Chesnutt, R.I.P.: Gifted singer-songwriter dies at 45
The 10 most played holiday songs: How is Mimi’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’ not on here?
Rihanna’s new ‘Hard’ video: In the army now
Hannah Montana? Ed Helms? Who should be nominated for an Original Song Oscar?

Photo credit: Chesnutt: Sandlin Gaither

Comments (78 total) Add your comment
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  • Nick

    Here’s Vic & kristin doing Panic Pure: http://www.mediafire.com/?xigdlh5jx4a

  • Telly B

    Who the hell was he, and why should we care???

    • nancy

      who the hell are you and why should we care about you? He was an amazing musician who produced over dozen albums. What have you done?

    • Len

      Plus he was someone clearly loved and cherished by many, Telly B.
      What kind of animal are you, anyway? Go crawl back into your cave.

    • ambrette coffer

      re: telly b. WTF man, you are trolling and ranting obits? we miss this man. you, on the other hand may go die slowly and painfully to my personal delight.

    • bbQueen

      C’mon Telly B are you going to post this same pathetic rhetoric on the site of EVERYONE who dies?? I know you do it because you enjoy getting a rise out of others but could you at least be a little more original next time???

    • alan of montreal

      wow, you must have some sad life if this is how you pass your time.

  • Telly B

    How come I have never heard about him? Neither any of my friends. Was he a superstar on the level of Madonna, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles or Elvis? Why should we care, then?

    • Andrea

      huh, good point. and what does that make you exactly, if it’s him who is such a nothing?

    • John Book

      So in other words, you only place value and sympathy on someone else’s death because it’s a popularity game? Rather than ask if he was up there with Madonna, Michael Jackson, or The Beatles, the same time and energy used to come up with that could’ve been used to discover Chesnutt’s music. Perhaps in 2010, we can have less people like you who put faith in status and fame.

      • Telly B

        I have a feeling that his music wasn’t all that great, if nobody I know has the slightest idea who he was. Even my “artsy”, indie-music loving friends give me a “Who?” when I asked them.
        If he had been such a brilliant artist, he would at least be better known, if no a Madonna-Michael Jackson-level superstar.

      • Telly B

        So i checked YOUTube…seems Madonna “covered” a song by Chesnut called Guilty By Association. Um…covering is a stretch. Some dude (Joe Henry?)sings the song and you hear Madonna barely, in what amounts to a little more than background vocals. That is not “covering” a song. But clearly, slapping a “Madonna” on the label would probably move a few more records than if it had been honest and said “Joe Henry featuring background vocals by Madonna”

      • Telly B

        Actually, Madonna and Michael Jackson have written hundreds of songs, many of them which have become classic hits. And you are implying that not writing makes them less of an artist? Are you saying that Frank Sinatra and Aretha are any less legendary cuz they didn’t write most of their hits? Not to mention that hardly ANYONE would contest Elvis impact on pop culture, and he never wrote any songs. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Sinatra, Aretha, Elvis, Whitney, Beatles…all of them iconic artists and legends.

        Vic Chesnut…WHO????

        And yes, Vic Chesnut doesn’t even come close to Madonna, or Elvis

      • Stephanie

        >Telly B

        With that attude you can rest assured that no one will care when you die.

    • Clever Kid

      Lets just say Telly B that Michael Jackson, Elvis or Madonna couldn’t carry Vic’s jockstrap! Incase you don’t get the reference, it means in compared to Vic, they were/are NOTHING

      • Telly B

        So how come Madonna, Elvis, and Michael, are/were all gigantic superstars with combined sales in the BILLIONS and countless hit records? (Heck, Madonna is still BREAKING records, what with her last tour becoming the biggest grossing tour by a solo artist ever, male or female) Michael Jackson still has the biggest-selling album of all time, Elvis is still the most successful solo artist of all time, and Madonna is not only the most successful solo female artist of all time, and has the above mentioned tour, she also has more top ten singles than anyone else, ever (including ELVIS). Did Vic Whatshisface ever come close to any of that?

      • Bunty

        It’s interesting you use Madonna as an example. She covered one of Vic’s songs.

        He was known and loved by many, including many musicians who fulfil your facile criteria for musical worthiness; even if your ‘arty’ friends never had the fortune to have heard him yet.

        And really, this is the internet, instead of whingeing on his obituary you could actually spend the 3 minutes on google it would take to find out who he is.

      • Telly B

        Madonna covered one of his songs? Interesting. If that could not make him a household name, I guess nothing could.

        In any case, I don’t know why EW wastes bandwith on this. If nobody cares about this “Vic Chestnutt” and if he wasn’t s superstar, why bother? EW might as well cover the death of my neighbor’s second cousin’s mailman…he is as well known as Vic Wjatshisface…

      • Telly B

        So i checked YOUTube…seems Madonna “covered” a song by Chesnut called Guilty By Association. Um…covering is a stretch. Some dude (Joe Henry?)sings the song and you hear Madonna barely, in what amounts to a little more than background vocals. That is not “covering” a song. But clearly, slapping a “Madonna” on the label would probably move a few more records than if it had been honest and said “Joe Henry featuring background vocals by Madonna”

      • Clever Kid

        Telly B, commercial success is nothing, and I mean nothing. Look at all the worthless music that is/was commercially successful… Milli Vanilli (sp?) ring a bell. Outside the Beatles, I don’t think any of the artists your holding up write or wrote their own songs. I terms of writing soul shaking, meaningful music, again… NONE of them could carry Vic’s jockstrap

      • Clever Kid

        and finally..(maybe). Regardless of weather you care or not, a HUMAN BEING is dead and you should be respectful or that. I’m not saying that you should care, thats up to you, but I could care less about Michael Jackson or Elvis, but I didn’t go around dissing them on a message board when they died. Grow up a little bit while your spinning “Material Girl”

    • J-One

      Maybe Telly B you should see this list of artists who did know who Vic Chesnutt was.

      http://www.discogs.com/Various-Sweet-Relief-II-Gravity-Of-The-Situation-The-Songs-Of-Vic-Chesnutt/release/724586

      Hmmm Madonna is on the list…

    • Ashley

      Telly B you are such a disgrace. What is WRONG with you?? First of all, not every artist has to reach the levels of success of Madonna or Michael Jackson in order to be considered great. Are you really that daft and superficial? Moreover, as others have pointed out, this is a man who will be greatly missed by those who knew and loved him – that fact alone makes you a dirt bag for making such cruel and insensitive comments. Finally, I don’t know much about his music but it doesn’t take a genius to realize and respect the fact that this man was influential as an artist in some way.

      • Telly B

        Actually, Madonna and Michael Jackson have written hundreds of songs, many of them which have become classic hits. And you are implying that not writing makes them less of an artist? Are you saying that Frank Sinatra and Aretha are any less legendary cuz they didn’t write most of their hits? Not to mention that hardly ANYONE would contest Elvis impact on pop culture, and he never wrote any songs. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Sinatra, Aretha, Elvis, Whitney, Beatles…all of them iconic artists and legends.

        Vic Chesnut…WHO????

        And yes, Vic Chesnut doesn’t even come close to Madonna, or Elvis or any of those multi-million selling blockbuster superstars who have not only sold truckloads, but have thoroughly permeated pop culture in a substantial, impactful way.

      • Telly B

        How the hell was he influential?? Look around us…the influence that people like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Aretha, Whitney, Elvis, The Beatles and Sinatra is still felt today…every artist that came after them owes them . Vic Chesnut? Please…maybe a bunch of indie-loving musicians that can be counted in one hand. Let’s get real…nobody knows who this guy is. And nobody will. Remember when Michael Jackson died? Remember how extraordinary and all-encompassing the media storm was after his death, and the outpouring of grief, and the records selling again….?

        Where’s all that for this guy, if he was so brilliant?

      • Clever Kid

        Telly B, wanted to let you know that there is a whole world of music out there besides what you absorb on MTV, VH1 and Rock 104.9 and it seems like you may not have the mental capacity to appreciate it. Thats ok, you continue to enjoy your prefabricated hits. One thing to remember though. Writing your own songs from the depths of your soul make you a musician and an artist. Singing songs that were written for you makes you a performer and that includes Elvis, Madonna, Aretha, Sinatra, on and on and on. You enjoy performers, good for you. The world needs people who enjoy performers…

      • Telly B

        Thanks, cleverkids. I will continue enjoying my “prefabricated” hits that still manage to make millions and millions of people happy, and reach the hearts and souls of legions of fans, and keep influencing other artists and pop culture. (and by the way, if you were so knowledgeable about music as you probably think you are, you would know that Madonna has written a big, big chunk of her hits…google it) You continue listening to your “form the depths of their soul” music, which will continue being undiscovered, ignored and just appreciated by the pretentious crowd who still cling to the notion that writing your songs intrinsically makes you a “better” artist than those who don’t. In the end, none of your artists that write “from the soul” will be even a blip in pop culture, while people like Madonna, a singer and songwriter who can expertly combine both artistic and commercial sensibilities) will live on as a Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer, an iconic superstar and a legend.

  • Julia

    I’m embarrassed to say I had only recently heard of Vic Chesnutt via a Teri Gross interview on NPR. He was a genuine, honest person and I’m sorry we’ve lost him. He was fighting for every moment knowing he had a propensity for suicide. I know that sounds strange but that’s how it felt…fighting to stay alive; knowing he might kill himself. I hope he’s found peace.

  • tenley rose

    goodbye vic. <3

  • matthias

    Bye Vic, i love your music and I hope, you’re happy now whereever you are.

    Love from Germany.

  • Deborah

    The music world has lost one of its great genuine troubadors. Rest well, Vic, you have earned your final peace even if we think it was too soon.

  • BW

    Ok first of all telly B you are taking low blows!!!.
    When someone has died, you should not conduct yourself in such a cruel manner.
    THe fact that you or your so called “indie friends”, have not heard of VC, does not make him less valid as a person.
    How can you spread utter trite and vitriolic opinions.
    To say your comments sounded uninformed and lacking heart, would be a huge understatement.
    Please grow the &*(^ up and stop slandering dead people!!.
    B

    • Telly B

      How am I slandering him? I am not spreading lies. I am commenting on a fact…very few people knew who he was, he was never a household name, he was never a superstar, or a legend and he will never be. How is that “slander”? It’s the truth…

  • Scott

    Telly, Joe Henry is an accomplished songwriter and producer who has worked on some amazing albums and movie soundtracks. He’s also married to Madonna’s sister, but had never capitalized on that fact. When the tribute to Vic was put together in the mid-90’s, she offered her assistance on Henry’s beautiful cover.

    No, Vic was not a massive superstar like Madonna or MJ. But to those who discovered his music, he was every bit as important, if not more. I have never owned any MJ or Madonna (outside of the Vic cover), but I do own the majority of Chesnutt’s catalog and play them constantly (especially the last couple of days).

    For some artists, celebrity status is important. For others, just having the opportunity to play your songs is enough. Given all of the problems that have plagued Vic’s life (most notably being confined to a wheelchair), his fans have been blessed with the amount of quality material he has given us.

    • Telly B

      Maybe he should’ve capitalized on being Madonna’s bro-in-law. If his music was so brilliant and beautiful, why stay on the fringes? Why not share that brilliance with a lot more people.
      Madonna’s name could’ve helped him be exposed to millions that otherwise would never know who he was…

      • Scott

        Some people don’t care about the fame, and Henry has done pretty well for himself staying behind the scenes.

        My question to you, though, is why you would care enough to comment so many times? I skip articles on people that I don’t care or know about. Putting Twilight in a heading, for example, is enough to make me move on.

  • Stephanie

    Also, there are a lot of musicians who aren’t in it for the fame and notariety. Maybe he doesn’t like riding coat tails. Just because you friends haven’t heard of him doesn’t mean he was a nobody. Do they know all there is to know about music? I don’t think so. Niether do you…..

  • Stephanie

    Terrible, terrible karma Telly B. Something bad will happen to you soon with all of this negative energy you are carrying around.

  • EM

    Telly B….your attitude is repulsive and in fact epitomizes everything that is wrong with mainstream music listeners in America. If it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t matter? One human life is more valuable than another? It took me awhile to understand why someone so idiotic (you) would even bother to comment on an article about Vic, until I realized this article is from EW… Go back to reading celebrity gossip from people that ‘matter’ and stop filling this page with your vile hate. Vic’s music is lost on you…

  • Telly B

    “If it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t matter?”

    Um…yes?
    Why would it matter, if nobody has heard of it? How do you expect to impact the world, and/or change lives, or touch hearts, if your music stays on the fringes? Of course it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t sell. You can have the most brilliant music in the world, but if nobody hears it, what point there is to it???

    • side3

      “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees sold a lot of copies. It didn’t make it ‘art’.

      Madonna and Michael Jackson mean nothing to me. I have never owned any of their records. Music is a very subjective thing. You fav is not my fav. Just because Vic was not your cup of tea doesn’t make him any less important.

      • Telly B

        What’s art and what is not? Does being indy automatically make something “art”? Does being a commercial juggernaut automatically render your music crap? That’s not my point, my point is why should we care about an artist that nobody has heard of?

  • Telly B

    “It took me awhile to understand why someone so idiotic (you) would even bother to comment on an article about Vic, until I realized this article is from EW…”

    A magazine website that you are actually on, even though you claim to be oh-so-above it.

  • babaloo09

    Telly B..please slide down a razor into a pit of alcohol..you are a douche..

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