Silver Jews mastermind David Berman plans to quit music, according to messages he posted on the Drag City Records Web site. A Jan. 31 show at Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tenn., will be the group’s last.
“I guess I am moving over to another category. Screenwriting or muckraking. I’ve got to move on. Can’t be like all the careerists doncha know,” Berman wrote in a post confirmed as authentic by his publicist. “I’m forty two and I know what to do. I’m a writer, see?”
He added, “I always said we would stop before we got bad. If I continue to record I might accidentally write the answer song to ‘Shiny Happy People’.”
Berman went on to denounce his father, veteran Washington lobbyist Richard Berman, for his work with organizations that seek to freeze the minimum wage and raise blood-alcohol arrest levels.
“Previously I thought, through songs and poems and drawings I could find and build a refuge away from his world,” he wrote. “But there is the matter of justice. And I’ll tell you it’s not just a metaphor. The desire for it actually burns. It hurts. There needs to be something more. I’ll see what that might be.”
Berman has had an ambivalent outlook on his music career since the Silver Jews emerged in 1994 with their debut album, “Starlite Walker.” For years, he rarely gave interviews and refused to tour, but in a 2005 chat with Billboard, he reversed course.
“My attitude about performance is more mercenary now,” he said. “Before, it was something I really felt couldn’t be successful and shouldn’t be done. I wasn’t in the business of peddling music and going out and selling myself. I want to go make a record and then return to my own life. Performance has always seemed like a failure to me. It’s temporary. It’s left there. When I make something, I like to have control over it and its existence afterward. It’s just not the kind of work I’ve ever wanted to do. But it has gotten the point where I can’t afford to just make money off records.”
Since then, Berman has toured regularly with Silver Jews, the live incarnation of which features his wife, Cassie.