One of the founding fathers of power pop, Alex Chilton died on March 17 of a heart attack in New Orleans. Chilton has been cited by many as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th Century.
He began his career as the 16-year-old lead singer of the Box Tops, a late 60’s “boy band” who first hit the charts with the song “The Letter” (1967). Chilton had felt the music industry exploited the Box Tops and eventually the band broke up in 1970. Soon he found his way to Memphis and hooked up with Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel to form Big Star. Although Big Star never achieved much commercial success, their sound which combined equal parts Memphis soul and British Invasion pop sparked a power pop movement that inspired musicians such as R.E.M., The Replacements, The Posies, Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, Cheap Trick and The Bangles.
Chilton was immortalized in the song “Alex Chilton” by The Replacements on their 1987 album Pleased to Meet Me. After recording three albums (1971-1974) Big Star disbanded and Alex Chilton went on to record many solo records. He briefly reunited with both the Box Tops (1989) and Big Star (1993). Chilton will live on as a talent who helped define a musical genre that continues to inspire.