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Posted Mar 17, 2010, 6:04 pm
Musician Alex Chilton, songwriter for Big Star and The Box Tops died today of a heart attack, as reported by the Memphis Commercial Appeal. He was 59.
Chilton has retained a cult following for 30 years. Having had a huge success with his Box Tops single "The Letter," Chilton failed to find the great 60s stardom that so many of his contemporaries achieved.
While in its time, it failed to sell millions of records, his band Big Star is considered by many to have been singularly influential decades later, as scores of alternative acts and songwriters have cited them as major antecedents.
Big Star's scant three albums retain legendary status among musicians. Recorded in Memphis at Ardent Studios, the first two records, "#1 Record" and "Radio City" are transcendent and perfect "power-pop." The third album, also known as "Sister Lovers, "recorded after fellow songwriter Chris Bell left the band, is arguably Chilton's strangest and most profound material.
By the late 1980s, cover versions of Big Star songs were ubiquitous and just as fresh and relevant as they had been in the 70s. The roster of Big Star interpreters included several of the best bands of the era, REM, The Replacements and This Mortal Coil.
Chilton and fellow founder Jody Stephens reformed the band in the 1990s with members of The Posies. While the band had not been active for a few years, a concert had been scheduled at South by Southwest for Saturday.
Friends and colleagues are shocked by his sudden passing. Ardent Studios founder John Fry spoke to the Commercial Appeal.
It’s obvious to anybody that listens to his live performances or his body of recorded work, his tremendous talent as a vocalist and songwriter and instrumentalist. Beyond the musical talent, he was an interesting, articulate and extremely intelligent person. I don't think you’d ever have a conversation with him of any length that you didn’t learn something completely new.
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Chilton is survived by his wife, Laura, and a son Timothy.