Alex Chilton has died at the age of 59. His was an enormous influence in the sub-genre which came to be known as power pop. He had commercial and underground success in a career that covered four and a half decades.
On the commercial side, as the 16-year-old lead singer of The Box Tops, he recorded "The Letter", which reached number 1 on the international pop charts.
As perhaps the ultimate testament to his underground street cred, The Replacements named a 1987 song, "Alex Chilton".
His style as a performer and producer began with multi-layered adventures, epitomized by his band Big Star's debut record, #1 Hit Album. He eventually evolved to a very minimal approach, eschewing overdubs in general and taking on many of the punk-rock sensibilities which arrived in the mid-70s. This is notably present in two releases Chilton produced by psychobilly punks, The Cramps, as well as his ensuing solo work.
Alex Chilton (born William Alexander Chilton, December 28, 1950, in Memphis, Tennessee – March 17, 2010 in New Orleans) was an American songwriter, guitarist, singer and producer best known for his work with the pop-music bands the Box Tops and Big Star. Chilton's early commercial sales success in the 1960s as a teen vocalist for the Box Tops was not repeated in later years with Big Star and in his indie music solo career on small labels, but he did draw a loyal following in the indie and alternative music fields.
Chilton said in the September 1994 issue of Guitar Player that he considered himself a "musical performer, not a songwriter" and that some of his songs sound only "half-baked" to him. Nonetheless, his compositions have been performed by a number of artists, including This Mortal Coil, The Bangles, Wilco, Graham Coxon, Garbage, Son Volt, Counting Crows, Elliott Smith, Jeff Buckley, Cheap Trick, Superdrag, Evan Dando, Cat Power, Yo La Tengo, You Am I, Placebo, Xiu Xiu, and His Name Is Alive.
Speaking as a former professional musician in the indie rock ranks, I have long felt a personal affinity for Chilton's work, and am saddened by his loss. I encourage those of you who, like me, were touched by Chilton's work, to share your personal thoughts and memories.