David Berman, co-founder and leader of the beloved indie band Silver Jews, has died. His longtime record label Drag City announced the news Wednesday night. Berman’s cause of death is not known at this time. He was 52.
“We couldn’t be more sorry to tell you this,” Drag City wrote on Twitter. “David Berman passed away earlier today. A great friend and one of the most inspiring individuals we’ve ever known is gone. Rest easy, David.”
Berman formed Silver Jews in 1989 with his University of Virginia classmates Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich. He released six albums, including the 1998 classic American Water, under the moniker before retiring from music in 2009 following years of struggles with substance abuse.
The reclusive artist developed a cult following for his wry literary writing, and he returned to music last month with the self-titled debut album by his new band Purple Mountains. He will also be remembered for his 1999 poetry collection Actual Air and 2009 cartoon collection The Portable February.
Berman’s final interview was published by The Ringer two days before Purple Mountains’ release. “I take pride in the fact that I can walk away from things,” he said from his Chicago apartment. “My willingness to walk away has protected me, I realize that now.”
Purple Mountains were scheduled to start a North American tour this weekend. Berman is survived by his wife Cassie.