Friends respond to Vic Chesnutt's death: Michael Stipe, Jeff Mangum, Patti Smith

Michael Stipe has issued a brief statement on the death of his friend Vic Chesnutt yesterday. “We have lost one of our great ones,” writes the R.E.M. frontman on the band’s official site. Stipe produced Chesnutt’s first two albums in the early 1990s and was instrumental in bringing his music to a wider audience.

For more of the statements posted on R.E.M.’s website, including tributes from Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, Patti Smith, and others, click through to the jump.

Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel): “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.”

Patti Smith: “‘I flew around a little room once.’ A line from [Chesnutt’s song] ‘Supernatural.’ He was just that. He possessed an unearthly energy and yet was humanistic with the common man in mind. He was entirely present and entirely somewhere else. A mystical somewhere else. A child and an old guy as he called himself. Before he made an album he said he was a bum. Now he is in flight bumming round beyond the little room. With his angel voice.”

Jem Cohen (filmmaker): “The most important story to report now is not Vic’s death but a life and work overflowing with insight, humor, and yes, resilience. This, after all, was the man who wrote: ‘I thought I had a calling, anyway, I just kept dialing.’ Sixteen extraordinary albums, five in the last couple of years; countless live shows so powerful and sublime they deeply altered the lives of those on the stage with Vic and those looking up, yes up, at him. The second most important story here has to do with a broken health care system depriving so many of the help they need to stay around and stay sane, and a society that never balks at providing more money for more wars but fights tooth and nail against decent care for its citizens. Vic’s death, just so you all know, did not come at the end of some cliché downward spiral. He was battling deep depression but also at the peak of his powers, and with the help of friends and family he was in the middle of a desperate search for help. The system failed to provide it. I miss him terribly.”

Mark McElhattan (Film curator, New York Film Festival): “Years ago upon discovery, [Chesnutt’s 1991 album] West of Rome consoled me when I was going under. A life saver with the straight story. I followed since then from a distance. Vic was a unique being, mind, voice. No one spoke or made music like that, with that particular timbre, vocabulary and perception. Fierce and direct or levitated, whimsical and ornamental, he always cut to the bone. And past that, to the soul. It’s a shame. A national tragedy, when you look at the issues being faced.”

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

More from’s Music Mix:
Vic Chesnutt, R.I.P.: Gifted singer-songwriter dies at 45
Kristin Hirsh on Vic Chesnutt: ‘I miss him more than I’ve missed anybody ever’
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?

Comments (24 total) Add your comment
  • ss

    Oooouuuuuhhhh Patti …. hhaha:ALL GONE

  • Ramo

    I’ve heard of Vic, but I’m not too familiar with his music. But any event that can make the reclusive Jeff Mangum emerge from hiding must be significant. I was just listening to the Aeroplane Over the Sea yesterday, marveling for the 1000th time about how amazing that album is.

  • CH

    Oh brother! It’s amazing that this guy dies and the liberals use his death to push universal healthcare. If this guy died 3 years ago all you would have seen was his obit in the local paper, like everyone else.

    • XSEDrake


    • twitsmiter

      It pleases me to no end that we liberals get so deep under the skin of you paranoid, cold-hearted conservatives, that even in something as tragic as the death of another human being on Christmas day, you can only see an opportunity to attack us. You’re dinosaurs… hateful, frightened dinosaurs whose time is almost over.

    • Mimi

      I live in Athens and the local paper ran a story not too long ago about his ungodly medical bills, which might have been a reason behind his overdose. So why don’t you shut the hell up CH and know the whole story BEFORE you make an asinine comment.

    • aaron

      You’re an idiot. You assume that just because you’ve never heard of him, that he’s only being talked about because of health care. People actually like him and his music. He existed and was beloved long before this story and if he would have died 3 years ago, he would have been on No doubt. Quit listening to whatever generic meaningless nonsense you choose to listen to and buy some real music.

      • Mimi

        You said it perfectly. I am sure CH is a fan of the Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus or whatever pre-fab BS that comes out of “music biz” these days. Come to Athens, CH and I will show you what REAL music sounds like.

  • Brian

    @ CH and Tony- If you are not here to utterly mourn the loss of this man you are both in the wrong place and here for the wrong reason.

    I dare you to listen to the album
    Is The Actor Happy? all of the way through.

    After hearing it, or any of his records for that matter, I wonder if you’d still feel comfortable using his demise as a vehicle to discuss anything other than the pain his family, friends, and fans feel now that he is gone.

  • Trish

    It’s very sad that Vic died and my thoughts and prayers are with his family, especially the natural parents and family members from whom he was separated as an infant. However, looking to the government, i.e., the “system” to help him and others is not the answer. Government intervention, unfortunately, has caused the health care “crisis” that the media keep telling us about. I greatly admired Vic and loved hearing him interviewed, but it is sad that he bought into the idea that the government is supposed to take care of us.

    Many people are using his death as a plea for health care, but the reality is that health care is a privilege and not a right, as many tout these days. Unfortunately, Vic made some bad decisions, such as driving very drunk. And even more unfortunately, one of those decisions ended in his becoming a partial quadriplegic (fortunately, he had enough use of his hands to play guitar). Forcing people to pay taxes and redistributing that money for health care does not seem like something that artists and other creative types should advocate. In the middle of the government’s trying to take control of our health via “health care bills,” sickness and death has become an excuse for nanny government to delve even more deeply into our homes and bodies. Artists, who will often fight for the freedoms that the first amendment give us, are often the first to encourage the government to interfere with our bodies via health care.

    • The Louvre

      How exactly do you know that his accident was a result of him drunk-driving? Where is your source for that? Would you care to provide us with it? If can’t say where you got your info, then your comment is basically useless.

      • Brian Crane

        He was driving drunk when he wrecked his van. He ahd left a show at the 688 Club in Atlanta and was driving back home to Griffin, which is just south of Atlanta. A mistake he paid for for over 27 years.

    • the fighter

      national military protection is a privelage and not a right, but it is something we are forced into because it is for the “greater good”. i say, if we are dying at home from diseases because of unaffordable access to appropriate healthcare, then what is the point of a trillion dollar military to keep us safe and alive. every argument is a two way street.

      R.I.P Vic, may your story inspire a nation and may you and your family finally get the rest you so desired

    • Scott Faingold

      Regarding Jem Cohen’s
      second most important story” –

      Enlighten me:

      What is it in the right wing fiduciary / psychological makeup that sees no problem spending uncountable tons of money creating a “theater” in which our boys and their boys (and tons of civilians to boot) are guaranteed to be blown to bits but at the same time paints the idea of contributing any money towards the medical well-being of our nation’s citizenry as horrible, horrible “Socialism”?

      Sadly, from where I stand, it seems that the common element here is income-based. That is, most of the people being sent to the front to be pulverized have one major thing in common with the ones wasting away without basic health care: they are poor.

      Please tell me if there is another reason, because while I would like to cling to my Pollyanna / Ann Frank – derived notion that People Are Good At Heart, some of you are making this very difficult.

      And don’t mention the constitution – as Mr. Cohen points out above, warfare isn’t any more of a constitutional right than health care.

  • violet

    @Trish “the reality is that health care is a privilege and not a right” How do you figure that? That is very sad if you truly believe that healthcare is a privilege.

  • Trish

    To the Louvre: I heard Vic say that his accident was the result of his getting drunk and driving on a Fresh Air interview. You can probably google and find the interview; it was only a month or so ago.

    To Violet: We’ve become a very spoiled society in the last 50 or so years. Health care, i.e., health insurance, is something that most people in the U.S. didn’t have 50 years ago; and yet, now everybody thinks that it’s a “right” and that everyone should have it for free. Good health is a real privilege indeed, but many take it for granted and expect the government to take care of our bodies. I want the government as far from my body as possible. I will continue to view good health and health care in general as a real blessing, something that we can be very thankful for, but not something that we take for granted. Note that if the government were not interfering in health care, more people would have access to good health care.

    • Helen

      Well fifty years ago it cost fifty dollars to have a baby including a ten day hospital stay. So maybe if you weren’t being charged thirty dollars for a tylenol nowadays you could afford health care so stfu.

  • Greg T.

    I started listening to Vic’s music in the early 90’s. It’s a tragic end to his (or any) life.

    The healthcare industry is awash in poor administration and dubious practices. I see it from the inside. You really have no idea how much money is wasted until you see it for yourself.

    In the U.S. we should have food, medicine, clothing and education for all who are here: However they got here. We can afford it. We choose not to make it happen.

    My thoughts are with Vic’s wife, his extended family and friends.

  • chris worley

    and no one will notice old Vic is gone. his body lies broken out on the front lawn. we step over him cuz our tv show’s on. it feels like the darkness just before dawn.

  • aaron

    I had the pleasure of seeing Vic perform a couple of times. He was fantastic. He was an honest songwriter and a real artist. He will be missed.

  • Telly B

    Who the hell was Vic Chesnutt, and why should we care?

  • savage

    Trish – Why don’t you and your right wing fascist bootlickers go on Toby Keith’s website and spew your vitriol. It is very sad that you have to spread your flawed Randian philosophy here.
    Most people reading this article miss Vic already. What do you contribute to the discussion? Vic created more happiness in this world than you will ever know. Go back to Glenn Beck and spare us your tripe.
    We miss you Vic.

  • Stephen

    Vic Chesnutt has been and still is my favourite musical artist since I had opportunity to see him perform live a few years ago. The gig was nothing short of breathtaking. I’ve been in awe ever since and his album North Star Deserter is probably my favourite album ever. His death is a tragedy and he will be sorely missed.

  • Nancy0914

    Please, a great artist dies and you are looking for a date??? Try again sister, it called the want adds.

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