Vic Chesnutt, a gnarled little man in a wheelchair, wrote and sang beautiful songs. He died Christmas day, at the age of 45.
He played a special gig on the roof of Urania in Vienna, October 2008
Wheelchair-bound since a car accident in 1983, Chesnutt became known in indie folk circles as a brilliant and melancholy songwriter. After several suicide attempts over the years, Vic Chesnutt took too many muscle relaxants and ended his life on Christmas. He should have been as famous as Brittney and Lady Ga Ga and all the other overproduced pop tarts jamming our frequencies. In a just world, he would have been able to pay his medical bills, too, which threatened to rob him of his house. This isn't a happy story. It won't get much airplay on the "infotainment" channels (neither would Van Gogh's accidents, for that matter, had "infotainment" reared its ugly screen a century ago) but we want to note his particular genius and encourage people to move beyond their mainstream musical tastes and look up Vic, a poet.
An interview with Vic Chesnutt in Paradiso, Amsterdam, 2008
Like many people, I first saw Vic Chesnutt when he opened for Bob Mould's acoustic shows in the 1980s. He wheeled himself out onto a Portland stage, played a few harrowing songs, and I became a fan. His latest record, "At The Cut," was one of his very best. I stuck one of the new songs ("Flirted With You All My Life") on my Best of 2009 Mixtape a week before he died. (Listen to it below.)
Vic Chesnutt live November 21st, 2009
An excerpt from an interview in Pop & Hiss in early December, 2009:
"I'm not too eloquent talking about these things," Chesnutt said. "I was making payments, but I can't anymore and I really have no idea what I'm going to do. It seems absurd they can charge this much. When I think about all this, it gets me so furious. I could die tomorrow because of other operations I need that I can't afford. I could die any day now, but I don't want to pay them another nickel."
Those feelings are deeply ingrained in "At the Cut," where almost every song offers at least a sideways glance at creeping mortality. Take, for instance, "Flirted With You All My Life," an incandescent country tune that's a kind of a breakup letter to Chesnutt's own thoughts of ending his life.
"I've been a suicidal person all my life, and that song is me finally being 'Screw you, death,' " Chesnutt said.
"Flirted With You All My Life," by Vic Chesnutt, 2009