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One year ago: Vic Chesnutt

December 25, 2010 |  6:00 am


Vic Chesnutt, a paraplegic singer, songwriter and guitarist whose plaintive voice gave spark to the poetic lyrics and hard-edged folk melodies he created, died one year ago, on Christmas Day.

Chesnutt, 45, died at a hospital in Athens, Ga., days after taking an overdose of prescription muscle relaxants.

I was on duty last Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. When reports surfaced that Chesnutt had fallen into a coma, I got busy researching his life. I already knew his work, having become familiar with his music on "Everybody Can Change," a spare recording of Chesnutt on vocals and guitar and his wife, Tina, on bass and Jeffrey Richards on drums. The song was included on the "Rare on Air, Vol. 2" compilation CD of recordings from the "Morning Becomes Eclectic" program on KCRW-FM, Santa Monica's NPR station.

I did not enjoy writing Vic Chesnutt's obituary. He was just too young and had too much creativity in him. His friends and family were devastated, said a family spokesman.

Only a few weeks earlier, Chesnutt had appeared at the Echoplex in Echo Park, while on tour for his new record, "At the Cut." He spoke then to a Times reporter about his distress over rising medical costs and his difficulty managing the bills:

"I'm not too eloquent talking about these things. I was making payments, but I can't anymore and I really have no idea what I'm going to do. It seems absurd they can charge this much. When I think about all this, it gets me so furious. I could die tomorrow because of other operations I need that I can't afford."

Less than a month later, he was dead. You can listen to his music on his website,, and his Myspace page, or read more about him at Constellation Records' website

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Vic Chesnutt in 1997. Credit: Los Angeles Times