RIP: Alex Chilton (1950-2010)

Singer, songwriter, guitarist Alex Chilton, best known as a member of of '60s pop-soul group The Box Tops ("The Letter") and leader of power pop cult favorites Big Star, died on the evening of March 17th in New Orleans, of a possible heart attack. News of Chilton's death was confirmed by his Big Star band mate, drummer Jody Stephens.

Despite never being a household name, Chilton's music did garner some mainstream exposure late in his life: the theme song to That '70s Show was a reworking of Big Star's "In The Street", performed by Cheap Trick; Gilmore Girls featured the band's "Thirteen", and an exclusive prep school attended by one of the show's main characters was named Chilton Academy. His career both as a solo artist and with the aforementioned Box Tops and Big Star--each of which he rejoined in he mid-'90s--spanned 5 decades and influenced a score of artists including Jeff Buckley, Elliott Smith, Teenage Fanclub and latter day Big Star band mates Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies.

And of course, there's The Replacements, whose Paul Westerberg wrote "Alex Chilton", which contains a line both author and subject will always be remembered for:

"I never travel far / without a little Big Star"

Alex Chilton was 59 years old.

Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) pays tribute to Chilton on the floor of the US House of Representatives: "His music will live on forever...He is an embodiment of Memphis music: hard, different, independent, brilliant, beautiful. We're lucky he came our way."

[Alex Chilton photo: Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty Images]