Vic Chesnutt

born on 1/1/1964 in Jacksonville, FL, United States

died on 25/12/2009 in Athens, GA, United States

Vic Chesnutt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Vic Chesnutt
Birth name James Victor Chesnutt
Born November 12 1964
Jacksonville, Florida, USA
Origin Athens, Georgia
Died December 25 2009 (aged 45)
Athens, Georgia, USA
Genre(s) Folk rock, Alt-Country
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instrument(s) Vocal
Acoustic guitar
Years active 1985-2009
Label(s) Constellation, Texas Hotel, Capitol, PolyGram, Backburner, New West, Orange Twin
Elf Power
Silver Mt. Zion
Danger Mouse

James Victor "Vic" Chesnutt (November 12, 1964  December 25, 2009) was an American singer-songwriter from Athens, Georgia. His first album, Little, was released in 1990,[1] but his breakthrough to commercial success didn't come until 1996 with the release of Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation, a tribute album of mainstream artists covering his songs.[2]

Chesnutt released seventeen albums during his career, including two produced by Michael Stipe, and a 1996 release on Capitol Records. His musical style has been described by Bryan Carroll of as a "skewed, refracted version of Americana that is haunting, funny, poignant, and occasionally mystical, usually all at once".[3]

Injuries from a 1983 car accident left him partially paralyzed; he used a wheelchair and had limited use of his hands.

Personal life

An adoptee, Chesnutt was raised in Zebulon, Georgia, where he first started writing songs at the age of five. At 18, a car accident left him partially paralyzed; in a December 1, 2009 interview with Terry Gross on her NPR show Fresh Air, he said he was "a quadriplegic from [his] neck down", and although he had feeling and some movement in his body, he could not walk "functionally" and that, although he realized shortly afterward that he could still play guitar, he could only play simple chords.[4] After his recovery he left Zebulon and moved to Nashville, Tennessee; the poetry he read there (by Stevie Smith, Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, W. H. Auden, Stephen Crane, and Emily Dickinson) served to inspire and influence him.[5]

When he was 13, Chesnutt declared that he was an atheist,[6] a position that he maintained for the rest of his life.[4]

On December 25, 2009, Chesnutt died from an overdose of muscle relaxants that had left him in a coma in an Athens hospital.[2] In the 2009 interview with Terry Gross, while discussing the song "Flirted with You All My Life", he said, "You know, I've attempted suicide three or four times. It didn't take."[4]

Early career and films

Around 1985, Chesnutt moved to Athens and joined the band, La-Di-Das, with future member of the Dashboard Saviors Todd McBride.[5][7] After leaving that group he began performing solo on a regular basis at the 40 Watt Club; it was there that he was spotted by Michael Stipe of R.E.M.; Stipe produced Chesnutt's first two albums, Little (1990) and West of Rome (1991).[5]

In 1993, Chesnutt was the subject of filmmaker Peter Sillen's independently produced documentary, Speed Racer: Welcome to the World of Vic Chesnutt, which was shown on PBS. Chesnutt also had a small role as "Terence" in the 1996 Billy Bob Thornton movie Sling Blade, which he later described self-mockingly as a poor performance.[7]

In 1996, Chesnutt was exposed to a wider audience with the release of the tribute album Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation, the proceeds from which went to the Sweet Relief Fund. The album consisted of Chesnutt covers by famous musicians including Cracker, Garbage, The Smashing Pumpkins (with Red Red Meat), Madonna, R.E.M., Soul Asylum, and Live.


He recorded with many other groups and artists. He made two albums with fellow Athens group Widespread Panic (WSP), under the name of brute. Chesnutt wrote "Aunt Avis" and co-wrote "Blight", which are often performed live by Widespead Panic.[8][9] "Aunt Avis" appeared on WSP's album Bombs & Butterflies, and Chesnutt made a guest appearance as well.[10] The 1997 video for "Aunt Avis" was directed by Billy Bob Thornton and featured Chesnutt.[10]

Chesnutt's 1998 album The Salesman and Bernadette was recorded with alt-country group Lambchop as the backing band. The album Merriment was a collaborative effort between Chesnutt and Kelly and Nikki Keneipp, with Chesnutt writing and singing the songs, and the Keneipps playing the music.

The 2005 album Ghetto Bells featured famed guitarist Bill Frisell, whom Chesnutt met in 2004 at the renowned Century of Song concert series at the German festival RuhrTriennale. Ghetto Bells also featured the legendary eccentric lyricist and composer Van Dyke Parks on accordion and keyboards. Chesnutt's wife, Tina Chesnutt, would frequently play bass on his albums, including Ghetto Bells. His niece, and fellow songwriter, Liz Durrett also appeared on the album.

In the winter of 2006, he recorded North Star Deserter at the Hotel2Tango in Montreal. It was released on September 11, 2007 by Constellation Records. The record included contributions from Constellation artists Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band, members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, as well as Fugazi's Guy Picciotto. The album was produced by documentary filmmaker Jem Cohen.[11]

In 2008, Athens, Georgia based Elephant 6 collective recording artists Elf Power collaborated with Chesnutt on the album Dark Developments, released as Vic Chesnutt, Elf Power, and the Amorphous Strums. The "amorphous strums" refers to Curtiss Pernice and Sam Mixon, who also played on the album.[1]

In 2009, Chesnutt worked with many of the same contributors to the album North Star Deserter to release the album "At the Cut" in September. Also, Like with North Star Deserter the album was recorded in Montreal and released on Constellation Records.[12] Later in 2009, Vic recorded the album titled "Skitter on Take-off" which was inspired by the two albums recorded in Montreal and was released on Vapour.[13]

In 2009, he sang on the track Grim Augury on from the album Dark Night of the Soul by Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley, Sparklehorse, and director David Lynch.

Label history

Chesnutt's first four albums were released on the independent Texas Hotel label. He then recorded About to Choke (1996) for Capitol Records. The Salesman and Bernadette (1998) was on PolyGram; Merriment (2000) was on the Backburner Records label; spinART was the label for the self-performed and recorded Left to His Own Devices (2001). Chesnutt then found a home at the New West Records label, which released two of his albums. In 2004, New West also re-released the early Texas Hotel recordings, including expanded liner notes and extra tracks.


Chesnutt was also a supporter of medical marijuana[14], which he said helped with his medical problems. He contributed the track "Weed to the Rescue" to the 1998 Hempilation II charity album, with proceeds going to NORML, an American organization dedicated to marijuana legalization.

He also appeared as a guest musician on Cowboy Junkies' 2007 album Trinity Revisited, a 20th anniversary edition of their classic album The Trinity Session. In 2011 Cowboy Junkies released "Demons," [15] an album of eleven Vic Chesnutt covers. It is Volume Two of their planned four-album Nomad Series.


  • "Other people write about the bling and the booty. I write about the pus and the gnats. To me, that's beautiful."[16]


  • 1990 Little
  • 1991 West of Rome
  • 1993 Drunk
  • 1995 Is the Actor Happy?
  • 1996 About to Choke
  • 1998 The Salesman and Bernadette
  • 2000 Merriment
  • 2001 Left to his Own Devices
  • 2003 Silver Lake
  • 2005 Ghetto Bells
  • 2005 Extra Credit EP
  • 2007 North Star Deserter
  • 2008 Dark Developments (with Elf Power and The Amorphous Strums)
  • 2009 Mitte Ende August OST
  • 2009 At the Cut
  • 2009 Skitter on Take-Off

With brute.

  • 1995 Nine High a Pallet
  • 2002 Co-Balt

See also

  • The Undertow Orchestra


  1. Khanna, Vish."Vic Chesnutt's Star Power", Exclaim!, October 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sisario, Ben (December 25, 2009). Vic Chesnutt, Singer and Songwriter, Dies at 45. The New York Times. Retrieved on December 25, 2009.
  3. Carroll, Bryan. [Vic Chesnutt at All Music Guide West of Rome: Overview]. Retrieved on December 27, 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Gross, Terry, Songs Of Survival and Reflection: 'At The Cut', Fresh Air, NPR, December 1, 2009. URL accessed on January 4, 2010.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Dixon, Al (December 1, 2009). Vic Chesnutt (1964-2009). New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved on December 25, 2009.
  6. Kusnetz, Ilyse, Vic Chestnutt songs bare eccentric soul, Orlando Sentinel, July 10, 2003. URL accessed on December 27, 2009.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Exclusive Download: Vic Chesnutt and Elf Power, 'Little Fucker', The Village Voice, October 30, 2008. URL accessed on January 6, 2010.
  8. Aunt Avis. Everyday Companion. Retrieved on January 4, 2010.
  9. Blight. Everyday Companion. Retrieved on January 4, 2010.
  10. 10.0 10.1 A (not-so) Brief History of Widespread Panic. Everyday Companion. Retrieved on January 4, 2010.
  11. Khanna, Vish (October 2007). Vic Chesnutt's Star Power. Exclaim!. Retrieved on January 6, 2010.
  12. http:[//]
  13. Khanna, Vish "Conversations: Vic Chesnutt" "Exclaim!", October 2009.
  14. Allen, Jamie, Singing the praises of pot on 'Hempilation 2', CNN, November 20, 1998. URL accessed on January 6, 2010.
  16. Farber, Jim, The Underdog's Ball. Singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt finds mirth in the murk of life, New York Daily News, April 10, 2005. URL accessed on January 6, 2010.

External links

  • Vic Chesnutt at All Music Guide
  • Vic Chesnutt at
  • Vic Chesnutt - Daily Telegraph obituary
This page was last modified 16.02.2011 15:01:22

This article uses material from the article Vic Chesnutt from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.