Melting the Mind, Washing the Soul

It's folly to compare your art to corporate power and influence, but David Berman did it and called time on his indie-rock band Silver Jews after 20 years. It's crucial to note music's remarkable powers here.

It was sad to hear Silver Jews call it quits, but heartbreaking to hear founder David Berman reveal, a few hours later, that his father is the high-profile corporate lobbyist Richard Berman.

"Now that the Joos are over I can tell you my gravest secret. Worse than suicide, worse than crack addiction: My father. You might be surprised to know he is famous, for terrible reasons... This winter I decided that the SJs were too small of a force to ever come close to undoing a millionth of all the harm he has caused." -- David Berman
Such comparisons bring souls crashing to earth. We must remember that music's power is greater than being a force struggling to pull social change in one direction. It's a release, an escape, an inspiration; it's power is plural, and collective. It's comforting that at Silver Jews' end David Berman's voice is so loud. It is in this final act that Berman comes out of his refuge of poetry, smashing through the glass. His determination to act is a reminder that whilst Silver Jews create beautiful alt-country constellations, we can navigate by those old and beautiful stars, not just appreciate them--acting on that which we treasure, not burying it and forgetting it.

I reach up for paper-planes thrown by fans, lovingly folded, offering that Berman's music is "like finding a park after all you could see was parked cars and garbage cans." It's a shame to witness the flame that lit these words extinguished, but it's not all darkness. Silver Jews' music has a found new vigor to my ears; there is no gloom, just greater appreciation and strange inspiration.

David Berman's music melts frozen minds, and lifts people up--even an inch is enough, no matter how deep lobbyist try to drag people down to drown. Like John Updike's death a new note is sounded, a new resonance felt: an immortality unique to those who strive to create something beautiful. Those in the pay of narrow interests will die bitter, but Silver Jews live on, holding us up, held by us--better that than to be rich, cold, and alone at the end. Harm should be undone, but it's equally important to appreciate what inspires us to strive for justice, the stuff that washes the dust of daily life from our souls, inspires us, renews us, and has us reborn. For that we must thank David Berman and Silver Jews.

TMN Editor Mike Deri Smith is no gourmet, he just has an abnormally large stomach. He lives in London. More by Mike Deri Smith

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