The regrettable tendency for audiences when any great artist dies is to hear that person’s music in the past tense. Songs one used to be able to live in actively start to sound more like premonitions or epitaphs, rather than the vibrant, complex worlds that existed before their departure. Though not as widely known as Kurt Cobain or Elliott Smith, Vic Chesnutt’s recent death has already sent fans parsing through songs like “Supernatural”, “Florida”, and especially the recently penned “Flirted With You All My Life” for clues and foreshadowing of his apparent suicide. However, I hope against odds that this is avoided. For all of Chesnutt’s remarkable candidness and honesty in his writing, songs like those mentioned above shined not just as insight into his own mind, but through their craft, idiosyncrasy, and unique style, they succeeded at illuminating countless unarticulated thoughts and feelings in our own lives, whether dark, silly, crass, or poignant. And though Vic’s death has left an unfixable hole in the lives of friends, family, and fans, the truthfulness and relevance of his life’s work endures.
“Flirted With You All My Life”, for example, touches on experiences and people personal to Chesnutt, though I cry whenever I hear it not out of pity, or how it resonates with Vic’s death just months after its release, but out of sympathy and my own experiences with death. In light of his passing, I hope not to fix his songs as finite pieces of his life’s puzzle, but to allow them to continue to be borderless and timeless. In that spirit, I want to indulge in a few of my favorite memories involving Vic’s music, that continue to make me laugh and think, as much to celebrate what was and is, as to grieve what can no longer be.