Singer-songwriter Alex Chilton, best known for his work with seminal powerpop band Big Star, died this afternoon of an apparent heart attack, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal. He was 59.
Chilton’s music career began at the age of 16, when he brought his sandpaper vocals to the Box Tops in 1967, landing a No. 1 hit that year with “The Letter.” After the band split in 1970, Chilton went on to form Big Star, releasing three highly influential albums over the span of three years: #1 Record (1972), Radio City (1974), and Third/Sister Lovers (1974). Though the band enjoyed little commercial success at the time and split in 1974, Big Star was praised by critics and cited as a major influence by a new generation of artists, including R.E.M., the Replacements, and Elliott Smith (who covered the band’s “Thirteen”). A newly assembled Big Star reunited in 1993, releasing several live albums over the years and a fourth studio album, In Space, in 2005. Chilton was scheduled to play at SXSW with Big Star this Saturday.
Below, a video of “Thank You Friends” from Third/Sister Lovers: