March 18, 2010 by Post Team
The singer and guitarist, best known as a member of the 60 pop-soul of the Law of Box Tops and 70-power pop of Big Law Star, died Monday in a hospital in New Orleans. Chilton, 59, had complained about his health today. He was taken by paramedics to the emergency room where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death is believed to be a heart attack.
His fellow band Big Star Jody Stephens, confirmed the news this afternoon. “Alex died a couple of hours,” said Stephens of Austin, Texas, where the band would play on Saturday at the annual South By Southwest Festival. “I have a lot of data, but that kind of suspect that it was a heart attack.”
The Memphis-Chilton born to rise to prominence at age 16 when his hoarse voice powered box office hit Tops massive “demand”. The band score several hits as “mourn as a child” and “Neon Rainbow”.
After the Box Tops ended in 1970, Chilton had only one brief period in New York before returning to Memphis. He soon joined a group of pop musicians Anglo-obsessed with the composer and guitarist Chris Bell, bassist Andy Hummel and drummer Jody Stephens, to form Big Star
The group became the flagship of the Law of the Stax studios new premises Ardent ‘distributed label. 1972 Big Star’s debut album, # 1 Record critically acclaimed but poor sales. The group briefly disbanded, but without meeting Bell to record the album Radio City. Released in 1974, the album suffered a similar fate, plagued by problems of distribution of Stax.
“I’m crushed. We are all crushed,” said Ardent founder John Fry, that most engineering sessions superstar. “This experience of sudden death is not something that you’re prepared. And yet it produces.”
The group made one more album, Third / Sister Lovers, with only Chilton and Stephens – and was also a small masterpiece. Darker and more complex than the previous pop-oriented material the band, remained unpublished for several years. In 2003, Rolling Stone named him three Big Star albums to its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
In the mid 70s Chilton began what would be a bias solo career, releasing several albums of material, like flies in 1979 as sorbet – a strange, chaotic album of originals and prints covering dark fans divided and critics. Chilton also began performing with local roots-deconstructionist punk’s Panther Burns.
In the ’80s, Chilton left Memphis to New Orleans, where he worked in a variety of jobs and stopped acting for several years. But interest in his music a new generation of alternative bands including REM and the Replacements, brought him back to the stage of mid-80s.
He continued to record and tour as soloist throughout the decade. Finally, in the ’90s, the underground cult around Big Star had become so great that the group was tempted to join a line-shape.
“It is obvious to anyone who listens to their live performances or his body of recorded work, his enormous talent as a vocalist and composer and instrumentalist,” Fry said.
“Beyond the musical talent, was an interesting, articulate and very intelligent person,” added Fry. “I do not think they ever have a conversation with him of any length that you did not learn something completely new.”
The band, with original member Stephens plus Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of the Posies, continued to perform regularly for the next 16 years. Big Star was the subject of several articles, books and CD campaigns reissue, including the release of box set widely acclaimed, keep an eye on the sky, released last year by Rhino Records.
Chilton is survived by his wife, Laura, and son Timothy.
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