Vic Chesnutt died on Christmas Day, after an overdose of muscle relaxants left him in a coma. If you’ve ever seen the man play live, you likely have “a Vic Chesnutt story.” Mine involves a Boston-area opening stint for Jonathan Richman in the mid-’00s, when Chesnutt wheeled out onto the Somerville Theater stage and sat there, tuning his guitar and ignoring us for about 45 minutes, making the room confront very twisted emotions about whether or not one could legitimately get pissed off at a man in a wheelchair. Some people actually left. Then, as if the curtain just rose, Chesnutt perked up and played a full set. I will forever remember that incident as a performance art piece, because it was.
Chesnutt’s recent conversation with Terry Gross has been quoted a lot in the last few days because of its cruelly prescient honesty regarding Chesnutt’s recent “Flirted with You All My Life”–“a breakup song with death.” But also worth reading is Rob Trucks’s interview with Vic last year for this blog, if only to remember that the man not only grappled with depression, but hope. “Getting older’s not a shame, it’s a miracle,” he told Trucks. “It’s a miracle, you know. I’m still on a quest. I mean, I still am on a quest. I think my best work is ahead of me. And I really do think my best days are ahead of me.”
“Vic was a miserable bastard with a heart that was connected to the center of the world,” Chesnutt’s former tourmate Mark Eitzel wrote over the weekend on his blog. (“I’m a very complex person,” Vic was the first to admit. “My personality is a complex thing.”) Michael Stipe, Jeff Mangum, and others remember him here on the Constellation Records site; friend and songwriter Kristen Hersh is hosting a donation page for Chesnutt’s widow here. Lastly, you should really revisit William Bowers’s piece from 2007 about Vic Chesnutt’s work. It might be the nicest thing ever written about a “booger.”