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Old Music Tuesday: Vic Chesnutt's 'Aunt Avis'

Vic Chesnutt
Jem Cohen

I haven't been able to listen to Vic Chesnutt's music much since he took his own life on Christmas Day, 2009. It's just been too heartbreaking. But on a recent, chilly Spring night in D.C. I had my iPod on random and Vic's song "Aunt Avis" came up. It was one of those seemingly innocuous moments when you're off in your own little world and something hits you out of the blue.

Vic Chesnutt
Jem Cohen

Old Music Tuesday

Aunt Avis

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  • from Drunk (Deluxe Reissue, 2004)
  • by Vic Chesnutt

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By the end of the first verse, tears were streaming down my face. Partly for the obvious loss of one of my most beloved artists, but also for something I hadn't considered before. Vic calls out again and again to his "momma" and "daddy" to save him, with the line "Help me remember how to be good, how to continue when I feel I really shouldn't," a reference to the various drug and alcohol addictions and crippling depression that, ultimately, led to the end of his life. Vic's parents had long since passed away and couldn't have saved him — I'm not sure anyone could have. But hearing "Aunt Avis" and that repeated line for the first time in a long while, I suddenly saw Vic as someone's son, not only a singer. And, of course, the thought of losing a child just knocked the wind out of me. I still can't believe he's gone.

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You can watch Vic perform a Tiny Desk concert here, and read Michael Stipe's remembrance of Vic here.