David Berman—the great songwriter, poet, cartoonist who died last week at the age of 52—touched the lives of a lot of creative people. Across the internet, over the past week, tributes have poured in from friends, collaborators, and even people who barely knew him. There was something about the way he looked at the world and grappled with its darkness that made people from all walks of life feel less alone. It makes sense that Marc Maron—who plumbs the dark parts of human experience on his podcast WTF—would feel some sort of kinship with Berman, and today, on this week’s episode, he shared his own appreciation of the Silver Jews songwriter’s art and life.
Maron opens the show admitting that he’s out of sorts because he’s been thinking a lot about the death of Berman, who he calls an “amazing creative mind.” He says he didn’t know Berman very well, but he shares his memories of meeting him in Nashville while he was in town for a standup show. Maron says he’d reached out to him to be on WTF, but Berman declined, saying instead that he’d rather just talk. They sat and talked about his “struggle” that he had with his father Richard, who Maron describes as a “public relations executive and lobby for the worst of things.” Maron says he immediately felt “the weight of this dude’s heart.”
Maron explains that he’d recently emailed Berman, letting him know that the door was always open to come on WTF. He reads Berman’s response, which seems both tentative and hopeful about his reemergence into the world with his new record as Purple Mountains.
“Marc, I would be happy to do your show after a little more time has passed,” Berman wrote. “Say this winter or spring, when I’ve had more time to reflect on what it’s been like to jump back in the pool after 11 years sequestered inside. I’ll give you better material and be a more charismatic guest no doubt when I’ve had time to make these necessary psychic adjustments. I don’t want to show myself while I’m still in the process of making them.”
Throughout his memories, Maron reflects on the nature of making art from that place, of being so burdened by darkness and making work that both reflects and overcomes it. “It’s hard man,” Maron says. “It’s hard if you’re sensitive, if you’re teetering or prone to depression or unstable in those ways in your mind. And sadly much of that disposition lends itself to a type of creativity that has to resolve existence in that darkness. You need to express yourself in order to get through it.”
That’s the biggest part of what makes Berman’s loss so hard to take. No one seemed better equipped to draw the maps of those hard places than him.
You can listen to Maron’s tribute over at the WTF site at the 8:20 mark of this week’s episode.
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