Alex Chilton, the influential and undeniably odd yet talented musician who fronted the Box Tops and later Big Star, has died in New Orleans at the age of 59. Originally from Memphis, Chilton was wildly prolific from his initial days as a 1960s teen idol and through the 1970s while he fronted Big Star. He embarked on a solo career after Big Star broke up in 1974, but never found the same commercial success as he'd previously experienced.
Nevertheless, Chilton's work with Big Star pioneered a darker, grittier sound that ushered in the still-active alternative rock scene beginning in the 1980s. From Rolling Stone to REM, Chilton was held up as one of the most important figures in modern music, with a legacy and body of work that is relevant and influential to this day.
Chilton was expected to reunite with Big Star on Saturday night, when the band was scheduled to close out the showcase at Antone's at 12:30 a.m. SXSW organizers referred to the rare show as one of the most "sought-after...performances around the world."
At this time, cause of death is unknown. Speculation is that Chilton, who had been feeling ill in the past few days, died of a heart attack.