Michael Stipe has issued a brief statement on the death of his friend Vic Chesnutt yesterday. “We have lost one of our great ones,” writes the R.E.M. frontman on the band’s official site. Stipe produced Chesnutt’s first two albums in the early 1990s and was instrumental in bringing his music to a wider audience.

For more of the statements posted on R.E.M.’s website, including tributes from Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, Patti Smith, and others, click through to the jump.

Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel): “In 1991, I moved to Athens, Georgia in search of God, but what I discovered instead was Vic Chesnutt. Hearing his music completely transformed the way I thought about writing songs, and I will forever be in his debt.”

Patti Smith: “‘I flew around a little room once.’ A line from [Chesnutt’s song] ‘Supernatural.’ He was just that. He possessed an unearthly energy and yet was humanistic with the common man in mind. He was entirely present and entirely somewhere else. A mystical somewhere else. A child and an old guy as he called himself. Before he made an album he said he was a bum. Now he is in flight bumming round beyond the little room. With his angel voice.”

Jem Cohen (filmmaker): “The most important story to report now is not Vic’s death but a life and work overflowing with insight, humor, and yes, resilience. This, after all, was the man who wrote: ‘I thought I had a calling, anyway, I just kept dialing.’ Sixteen extraordinary albums, five in the last couple of years; countless live shows so powerful and sublime they deeply altered the lives of those on the stage with Vic and those looking up, yes up, at him. The second most important story here has to do with a broken health care system depriving so many of the help they need to stay around and stay sane, and a society that never balks at providing more money for more wars but fights tooth and nail against decent care for its citizens. Vic’s death, just so you all know, did not come at the end of some cliché downward spiral. He was battling deep depression but also at the peak of his powers, and with the help of friends and family he was in the middle of a desperate search for help. The system failed to provide it. I miss him terribly.”

Mark McElhattan (Film curator, New York Film Festival): “Years ago upon discovery, [Chesnutt’s 1991 album] West of Rome consoled me when I was going under. A life saver with the straight story. I followed since then from a distance. Vic was a unique being, mind, voice. No one spoke or made music like that, with that particular timbre, vocabulary and perception. Fierce and direct or levitated, whimsical and ornamental, he always cut to the bone. And past that, to the soul. It’s a shame. A national tragedy, when you look at the issues being faced.”

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