The sudden death of Alex Chilton on Thursday (March 18) has sparked an outpouring of grief from the music community, with many friends, acquaintances and fans paying warm tribute to a man who has touched most of our lives at some point. Chilton was certainly a difficult man and a willful contrarian, but he didn’t need to speak to us through interviews or conversation—his deeply personal, sad, touching and sometimes funny songs did all the work for him.
It’s a testament to Chilton’s talent that his songs have been covered so many times. Here, we’ve gathered a selection of YouTube videos of some of those covers and collaborations, which include a version of “Kangaroo” by Jeff Buckley, who died while swimming in the Mississippi River during a break from recording in Chilton’s beloved Memphis. For many people, it’s tough to say goodbye to Chilton this way—he didn’t seem like a happy person, never seemed to find peace with himself, and he was surely owed a decent span of retirement time in his New Orleans home with his wife and son. It’s heartbreaking to think that he might not have found the happiness in life that so many people found in his music.
But many folks have got it together to pay tribute to Chilton. Former Big Star bass player Andy Hummel talks about him in this interview, and that article even mentions that the pair may have shared a stage together for the first time since 1974 at this week’s SXSW. Steve Wynn from the Dream Syndicate and Chuck Prophet from Green on Red both do a great job of seeing Chilton off here and here, while Paul Westerberg, who so memorably immortalized the singer in song, has offered this brief posting.
In the U.K., word about Chilton and Big Star was spread for years in the pre-Internet era by many bands signed to Creation, and Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream and Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub, who owe a sizable debt to Big Star, have paid tribute to him here. Mojo writer Martin Aston, who penned a thoughtful reminiscence of his meetings with the singer a few issues back, has written this piece about him on the magazine’s website. There are very few songwriters who have reached the level of intimacy Chilton had with his audience, and this is one rock star death that feels like it’s going to hurt for an awful long time. R.I.P. Alex, and thanks.
To begin, here’s the Replacements song that this post title is adapted from: