Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Cry Like A Baby: R.I.P. Alex Chilton

I was honestly all ready with a brand new cheery post involving cereal when I heard of the untimely passing of legendary musician Alex Chilton. You may or may not be familiar with his name, but even if you've never heard any of his music, I guarantee you've listened to artists who were greatly influenced by him.

Commercially Chilton peaked early. He enjoyed chart success as the 16 year old lead singer of The Box Tops with such hits as "Soul Deep", "I Cry like A Baby" and their Billboard chart topper "The Letter". (which would later become Joe Cocker's first U.S. top ten hit.)

I always thought it was weird how Chilton's voice seemed deeper and huskier as a teen than as an adult.

The cornerstone in Chilton's legacy was his next group, (The sadly ironically named) Big Star. Big Star specialized in jangly achingly beautiful power pop, and could count R.E.M., The Bangles, The Replacements, Wilco, The Gin Blossoms and far too many other artists to name as diehard fans. Probably most people are familiar with Cheap Trick's cover of their song "In the Street", which was the theme song for "That 70's Show".

I'd rate among their greatest accomplishments the song "September Gurls" which features Chilton's achingly earnest voice and lovely chiming guitar work.

After Big Star failed to find commercial success Chilton drifted off to CBGB and connected with the punk scene, then moved on to more jazz based material. He never quite matched his earlier successes, but lived to see an enduring legacy of fans. (Even though Chilton tended not to place much value on himself.)

I first became aware of him after he inspired one of my favorite bands to record one of their catchiest songs about him.

Yesterday, just days before a scheduled appearance by the reunited Big Star at the South By Southwest music festival Chilton was hospitalized complaining of health problems and died of a suspected heart attack at age 59. He will be missed.

Tomorrow: Funner post!

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