Terry Gross devoted last night’s “Fresh Air” to Vic Chesnutt, the partial-quadriplegic singer-songwriter who died on Christmas Day, following an intentional overdose of muscle relaxers. If you didn’t happen to be listening to NPR last night while you washed your dishes, luckily you can listen to the show here. The first half plays excerpts from an interview with Chesnutt conducted in November, in which he insists (sadly, in hindsight) repeatedly that the song “Flirted with You All My Life” is a “break-up song with death”. In the second half, Chesnutt’s pals and collaborators Michael Stipe, Guy Picciotto and Jem Cohen talk about their late friend. The highlights? Friends and family knew Chesnutt was going through a(nother) rough patch, and so his suicide wasn’t entirely a surprise. Also, though it would be “reductive” to blame America’s health care system on Chesnutt’s death, it certainly didn’t help matters any. (He couldn’t get good insurance because of his “pre-existing condition,” and was deeply in debt from medical bills.)
After an early adolescence spent singing “Sponge” alone in my bedroom, I hadn’t listened to a Vic Chesnutt CD in probably a decade. As with Michael Jackson, it took his death to make me realize I’d been underestimating/taking for granted an exceptional musician. So, let’s all listen to Vic Chesnutt…after the jump.