Lonesome Onry and Mean: R.I.P. Vic Chesnutt

The saddest musical news from the Christmas holiday is the overdose suicide of Athens, Ga. singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt.

Rumors circulated on the Internet Christmas Eve that Chesnutt had died overnight but, according to a spokesperson from his record label, he remained alive but in a coma. The label later issued a second statement via its Web site stating that Chesnutt had succumbed at approximately 3 p.m. Christmas Day, surrounded by family and close friends.

Chesnutt, who was paralyzed from the waist down as the result of an auto accident when he was 18, was known for his poetic, idiosyncratic lyrics. His work was often described as "Southern Gothic."

R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe saw Chesnutt playing an Athens bar and became a supporter. Stipe produced Chesnutt's first two albums, Little (1990) and West of Rome (1991). Chesnutt has since released 13 more records to broad critical praise but only limited commercial success. His most recent album was 2009's At the Cut, which NPR described as an album of songs of "survival and reflection."

Ironically, it was a tribute album, Sweet Relief II: The Gravity of the Situation, headlined by Stipe, Kristin Hersh and Smashing Pumpkins, that brought Chesnutt furthest into the public spotlight.


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