Vic Chesnutt's record label, Constellation Records, has released a statement confirming that the 45-year-old singer-songwriter has died. "Surrounded by family and friends, Vic Chesnutt died in Athens Georgia this afternoon, Friday December 25 at 14:59," the statement reads. "In the few short years that we knew him personally, Vic transformed our sense of what true character, grace and determination are all about. Our grief is inexpressible and Vic's absence unfathomable. We will make more information available according to the wishes of Vic's family and friends."
There's widespread speculation on the Web, but no confirmation, that Chesnutt committed suicide. "We have no comment right now on the specifics other than that his doctors are continuing to assess his condition," Constellation Records co-owner Don Wilkie wrote Thursday, while Chesnutt was in a coma. "We will issue a full statement at an appropriate time. In the interim, we request that everybody respect Vic's privacy and that of his family."
Chesnutt waged a very long and public battle with inner demons since before the release his first solo album Little (produced by Michael Stipe) in 1990. After becoming confined to a wheelchair at age 18 following a car accident, he publicly struggled with depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the musician faced nearly $70,000 in hospital bills, a subject he brought up in an interview earlier this month. From the interview:
I was making payments, but I can't anymore and I really have no idea what I'm going to do. It seems absurd they can charge this much. When I think about all this, it gets me so furious. I could die tomorrow because of other operations I need that I can't afford. I could die any day now, but I don't want to pay them another nickel.Despite these huge adversities Chesnutt did maintain an extraordinarily prolific career, releasing more than a dozen albums as a solo artist and many more while collaborating with other musicians, including Widespread Panic and Lambchop. Chesnutt released two albums in 2009, At the Cut and Skitter on Take Off.
Friends of the musician have set up a tribute page to Chesnutt, where fans are encouraged to donate money to his family to help them fulfill the singer-songwriter's medical debt.