Rest in Peace, Vic Chesnutt (“Isadora Duncan” by Jolene)

December 26, 2009

I was saddened to learn that Vic Chesnutt died yesterday. He had been in a coma for a week after an apparently intentional overdose of muscle relaxants.

I’m no expert on Vic Chesnutt, but I’ll write about my limited experiences.

I saw Vic when I was an undergrad in either late 1992 or early 1993. He was the first opener for Soul Asylum, at the peak of their popularity during the Grave Dancers Union tour. (Second on the bill was the Goo Goo Dolls, back when they were a pretty good rock band and not making shit-tons of money writing made-for-prom ballads.)

Vic was an odd choice for the bill. On a night of rock, out rolls this crippled dude in a wheelchair, accompanied by a female singer (I think his wife) and another musician, and they play some acoustic folky singer-songwriter stuff. I know the crowd thought it was strange, and I don’t think they liked it much. I, on the other hand, was intrigued.

A semester or two later, I received a promo of his album West of Rome. I was taken by its wry lyrics, and bon mots like “someday I will transcend / Just like Jane’s Addiction.” (Somehow he made it rhyme.)

Somewhere along the way, I lost my copy of West of Rome. I always meant to replace it, and further explore Vic Chesnutt’s catalog, but I never quite got around to it. I suppose that now that he’s gone, I’ll do the usual thing and gruesomely dig in. Better when Vic is late than never.

My favorite Vic Chesnutt song isn’t performed by Vic Chesnutt. It’s a cover by the obscure alt-country band Jolene, from their gem of a debut, Hell’s Half Acre (which I really ought to get around to reviewing). Without further ado, here’s “Isadora Duncan.”

Jolene – “Isadora Duncan”

Rest in peace.