Alex Chilton died yesterday.
As I suspect was the case with most music-lovers around my age, Chilton wove his way through my life in a non-direct fashion. My first brush with Chilton was through the 1967 hit he had with his young band the Box Tops, “The Letter”. When my father was a younger man, before my arrival, back when he was the sort of person who had friends in bands, he got up at a party and sang a song with his friend’s band – “The Letter”. Anyone who knows my father now would have a difficult time reconciling this fact with the gruff, curmudgeonly Italian-American they know. That is likely the very reason why the song always felt significant to me, that connection to a version of my father that was more like me. That, and it’s a good song. Chilton’s husky, soulful voice is commanding, and the modern sensibility of the song was always a captivating thing to hear in the midst of all the other songs played on the oldie goldies radio stations.
My next, very roundabout exposure to Chilton was the obvious one: the Replacements’ fantastic paean to the singer/songwriter, “Alex Chilton”. … Continue reading