article by Barney Hoskyns
from Mojo Magazine
March 17, 2010
Alex Chilton, Rock Musician, Dies
By DAVE ITZKOFF
Alex Chilton, the mercurial if influential rock musician, whose work spanned an eclectic gamut from the soul songs of the Box Tops to the multiple incarnations of his pop band Big Star, died on Wednesday. He was 59 and lived in New Orleans.
His death was confirmed by his wife, Laura, who said that Mr. Chilton had recently been complaining of shortness of breath and chills. On Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Chilton said, her husband experienced these symptoms and called paramedics, but before an ambulance arrived, she drove him in her car to the Tulane Medical Center. Mr. Chilton lost consciousness during the ride and was pronounced dead at the hospital. The cause of death is believed to be a heart attack, though autopsy results have not yet been released.
Mr. Chilton, who grew up in Memphis, was just 16 years old when the Box Tops, in which he sang and played guitar, had a No. 1 hit with “The Letter” in 1967. When that group broke up in 1970, Mr. Chilton formed Big Star with Jody Stephens, Chris Bell and Andy Hummel. The band’s first album, “#1 Record,” in 1972, did not come close to fulfilling the commercial promise of its title, nor did the followup releases “Radio City” and “Third/Sister Lovers.” But their music – gentle and introspective songs like “The Ballad of El Goodo” and “September Gurls,” and exuberant anthems like “In the Street” – had a profound impact on generations of pop and indie acts that followed.
Perhaps the surest measure of the tug that Mr. Chilton exerted on subsequent artists can be found in the lyrics of the Replacements – another malleable rock act that moved more hearts than retail units – who sang in their song “Alex Chilton”: “Children by the million / Sing for Alex Chilton / When he comes ’round / They sing, ‘I’m in love / What’s that song? / I’m in love with that song.’”
Big Star was scheduled to perform on Saturday at the South By Southwest festival in Austin. In a statement, the festival’s creative director, Brent Grulke, said: “Alex Chilton was an artist of the very highest caliber. It’s too early to do much but cry about our loss right now, but he’ll be missed, and missed more as the ages pass and his myth continues to expand – that music isn’t going anywhere. R.I.P. and thank you, friend.”
from Memphis magazine