Athens singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt died yesterday at the age of 45. Paralyzed as a result of a car accident in 1983, Chesnutt released 12 studio albums over the past two decades, including this year’s critically acclaimed At The Cut. I saw the story this morning on MSN.
I first heard Chesnutt about 10 or 11 years ago as part of a compilation called Exposed Roots: The Best Of Alt. Country. On a double CD set that featured several artists I was quite familiar with (Johnny Cash, The Jayhawks, Steve Earle, Whiskeytown, etc.), it was Chesnutt’s heartbreaking “Gravity Of The Situation” that stood out most among the music I didn’t already know. Though I never dove into Chesnutt’s catalog with full force, the songs I did hear over the years were obviously the work of a truly gifted artist who never compromised his vision.
In 1996 Victoria Williams’ Sweet Relief organization released a benefit album featuring many notable acts covering Chesnutt’s music - R.E.M., Garbage, Madonna & Joe Henry, Soul Asylum, Smashing Pumpkins, Cracker, Sparklehorse, & The Indigo Girls, among others. Proceeds went to help defray the enormous medical bills Chesnutt was faced with. Apparently, 14 years later the expenses were still a tremendous burden. "Flirted With You All My Life" becomes eerily prescient in the wake of this sad news: