David Berman, indie rocker and Silver Jews frontman, dies at 52
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David Berman, indie rocker and Silver Jews frontman, dies at 52

No cause of death announced for musician, who became religious, started attending synagogue during rehab stint in mid-2000s

David Berman performs with the Silver Jews in 2006. (Yani Yordanova/Redferns/Getty Images via JTA)
David Berman performs with the Silver Jews in 2006. (Yani Yordanova/Redferns/Getty Images via JTA)

JTA — Indie rocker David Berman, founder of the Silver Jews, an influential band which earned critical acclaim throughout the 1990s, died on Wednesday, according to his Chicago-based record label Drag City.

The label did not announce the cause of death for the 52-year-old.

Berman was set to start a tour for his new band, Purple Mountains, in September. The group’s eponymous first album, released in July, was Berman’s first new music in over a decade.

He battled various drug addictions over the years and had survived multiple overdoses.

Berman founded the Silver Jews with Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich, who would go on to found Pavement, a similarly beloved band which developed its own fervent cult following in the 1990s. Silver Jews released six albums between 1994 and 2008.

For much of his life, Berman described himself as “ethnically Jewish” but not religious. But in the mid-2000s he began studying Jewish texts after a voluntary rehab stint in Minnesota. One of the only ways he was allowed to leave the facility if he went to synagogue, so he began attending. By 2004 he had fully converted to Judaism, according to a profile in The Ringer.

“When I started the band, the name Silver Jews had no literal meaning – it was just an abstraction,” he said in 2006. “The irony is that over the last two years, I’ve gone through a transformation and I’ve decided to be a Jew. So the name has become something of a blessing.”

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