I was very saddened to hear that musician Alex Chilton passed away today at age 59 in New Orleans of a suspected heart attack. He was scheduled to perform with his legendary power-pop progenitors Big Star at SXSW in Austin this weekend. As a songwriter and singer, he influenced many many many musicians (think the Bangles, Wilco, Cheap Trick, almost any post-Beatles pure pop band) although to the greater public his name may be known more by his namesake song that was a hit for the Replacements from 1987.

Alex Chilton first came across my way with his huuuuuge 1967 hit "The Letter" with the Boxtops. I bought it on a 45 then, and I still have it...on a dark blue label with silver print, I think. I remember being so surprised that the grind-y gritty vocal came from a mere teenager, and I remember listening to the song (under 2 min. I think) and thinking about the lyrics and the jet sound and just how good it was. "The Letter" is one of rock's real classic singles. Look how adorable Alex is here.

I read about Big Star in CREEM, but they never really hit it big, although they had lots of critics in their corner. This is probably their best known song, the exquisite "September Gurls."

Chilton went on to a solo career that ranged from NYC-style early punk to blues-billy to minimalist jazz. He was not afraid to branch out and explore all of his musical interests, which leaves a catalog that is challenging and fun to dig in to.

He is just gone way too soon. I hope he knew he had done some really great work, and felt the love that people had for his songs.