Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Vic Chesnutt est mort à Noël"

This is a headline that I stole from Le Monde because I've been living in French (in Montréal) for weeks now, but just found out about Vic Chesnutt's overdose in Athens, Georgia, on Christmas Day a few hours ago after checking in on the Killing the Buddha blog.A friend of mine in San Francisco told me about Vic Chesnutt years ago and burned a copy of Little for me and I've been a huge fan of his brilliant melancholy ever since. (That he died $70k in debt makes me wish that I had bought this particular CD, instead.) That he died of an overdose, however, does not surprise me at all.
Part of my attraction to Vic Chesnutt's music (aside from the beauty and inventiveness of his lyrics, and his sometimes strange arrangements on instruments like toy pianos) was the fact that he was also adopted, which made the pain behind his scratchy angelic voice somehow familiar. Most of the attention in his myriad biographies is focused on the car accident (at age 18) that left him partially paralyzed, but I always thought of that event as symptomatic of the alcohol-fueled turbulence of his life as a teenage adoptee (oh, how I hate that word). In fact, "Where Were You?" (from West of Rome) became an anthem, of sorts, for me and the search for my family.

I met Vic, once, in 2003 at Amoeba Records on Haight Street in San Francisco after an in-store performance and I loved him then for not giving a shit about fame like I love him now for once being fired for refusing to tuck in his shirt and for stealing a copy of The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.
What I can't handle right now is the fact that he was only 45 years old and that At The Cut will be the last album we ever hear from this particular genius.

[Photos lifted from Metal Orgie, Constellation Records, Amazon, and Madison Music Review, respectively.]