One of the most beautiful albums I have bought in recent years is called Purple Mountains by the American indie rockers Purple Mountains. Purple Mountains is actually David Berman, who until 2009 was a member of Silver Jews. Purple Mountains was released on 12 July 2019. On 7 August 2019 Berman was dead.

The album didn’t appear in my ‘Best of 2019’ selection, but only on the grounds that I didn’t discover it until last year.

As well as being beautiful, it was raw. The song titles tell a story of their own:

1. “That’s Just the Way That I Feel”
2. “All My Happiness Is Gone”
3. “Darkness and Cold”
4. “Snow Is Falling in Manhattan”
5. “Margaritas at the Mall”
6. “She’s Making Friends, I’m Turning Stranger”
7. “I Loved Being My Mother’s Son”
8. “Nights That Won’t Happen”
9. “Storyline Fever”
10. “Maybe I’m the Only One for Me”

Snow Is Falling in Manhattan is impossibly beautiful and not an indicator, at least so far as I can tell, of a man in crisis. But All My Happiness Is Gone?

Feels like something really wrong has happened
And I confess, I’m barely hanging on
All my happiness is gone
All my happiness is gone
It’s all gone somewhere beyond
All my happiness is gone
Nights That Won’t Happen is the same:
Go contemplate the evidence and I guarantee you’ll find
The dead know what they’re doing when they leave this world behind
Obviously, I knew some of the story about Berman when I bought the record and I knew what I was getting: the feelings of a kindred spirit, albeit one with far deadlier demons. His dysfunctional family certainly resonated with me, as did its effects. His depression made my own look like a comedy night. This album is a suicide note.
Within weeks of the record coming out, Berman had hanged himself.
This world is like a roadside inn and we’re the guests inside
And death is a black camel that kneels down so we can ride
When the dying’s finally done and the suffering subsides
All the suffering gets done by the ones we leave behind

The very last line is the most important. Depression is an illness. It’s not being fed up. Berman knew that ‘the ones we leave behind’ do all the suffering, but that knowledge alone was of no help to him. I’ve been at that stage, several times if the truth be known (read all about it in my coming memoir of essays), but I was never quite ill enough to do anything about it. Life, even when it was terrible, was always better than no life at all.

I’m going to listen to Snow Is Falling In Manhattan again now.

Snow is falling in Manhattan
Inside I’ve got a fire crackling
And on the couch, beneath an afghan
You’re the old friend I just took in