IF HE DIED IN MEMPHIS, THEN THAT'D BE COOL, BABE: Sad, sad news tonight--Alex Chilton is dead. He was 59 and the cause of death was an apparent heart attack. Chilton was known to many as the lead singer of the Box Tops, whose blue-eyed soul hit "The Letter" is a staple of oldies radio. But it was with his next band, Big Star, that Chilton had his biggest influence. The band had next to no commercial success in its time, but it influenced a generation of pop-rock bands most notably REM, the Replacements (who of course went so far as to record "Alex Chilton"), and Wilco, among thousands of others.
Don't take my word for it, though. Seek out some Big Star and I guarantee you will be enchanted. "September Gurls" is a great place to start, though you might prefer "In the Street" (aka the theme from "That '70s Show," albeit as covered by Cheap Trick). Or even better yet, let Sound Opinions' Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot guide you through Big Star's albums in this episode of their show from last fall.