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David Berman calls it quits, lambastes father on Drag City website

January 27, 2009 |  5:03 pm

Berman400 David Berman, who masterminded the lo-fi gem Silver Jews, is calling it quits, according to a recent post on the Drag City website. Berman, who has been making sweet music since the band first formed in 1989 with friends Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich of Pavement, announced he is moving on: “I guess I am moving over to another category. Screenwriting or muckraking. I’ve got to move on. Can’t be like all the careerists, doncha know. I’m 42 and I know what to do. I’m a writer, see?”

In 1999, Open City published Berman's debut poetry collection, replete with blurbs from esteemed poets James Tate and Billy Collins.

Berman's Jan. 31 show in Tennessee will be the band’s last.

Berman’s prolific mess of alt-country, indie rock and stirring lyrics whisked a unique brew of quiet sincerity throughout his ambivalent musical career. Berman always struggled with the legacy of the Silver Jews, initially fighting to keep the band’s identity separate from the ever-rising Pavement and then refusing to tour or give interviews.

“I always said we would stop before we got bad,” he wrote in the post. “If I continue to record I might accidentally write the answer song to ‘Shiny Happy People.’ ”

In true Berman fashion, he went on to lambaste his father, Washington lobbyist Richard Berman, who has worked alongside tobacco, fast food and other questionable industries.

He wrote, “This winter I decided that the SJ’s were too small of a force to ever come close to undoing the millionth of all the harm he has caused. You and everyone you know. I’ve always hid this terrible shame from you, the fan. The SJ’s have always stood autonomous and clear.”

In 2004, the Silver Jews attempted to take a stand. After hearing a rumor that watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) had filed a complaint to the IRS urging an investigation of his father, Berman contacted the organization. Some time after the call, Berman played a show in Baltimore and donated the band’s proceeds to CREW.

“Previously I thought, through songs and poems and drawings, that I could find and build a refuge away from his world,” he wrote. "But there is the matter of justice. And I’ll tell you it’s not just a metaphor. The desire for it actually burns. It hurts. There needs to be something more. I’ll see what that might be.”

-- Alicia Lozano

Photo of Berman in 2004 by Matt Robison