David Berman, the legendary leader of Silver Jews and Purple Mountains, died by suicide in 2019; the third anniversary of his death was this past weekend. Maybe that’s why Will Oldham, Berman’s old friend and collaborator, has just resurrected a song that he recorded with Berman.
In 2016, Will Oldham, working under his Bonnie “Prince” Billy alias, got together with Dave Berman to record a cover of “Outsider,” the Ramones’ 1983 ripper. Oldham and Berman shared lead vocals on the track, and they recorded it with William Tyler, Chris Scruggs, and Pete Townsend. (Not Pete Townshend. Pete Townsend. Different guy.) In their version, Oldham and Berman turned “Outsider” into a country-folk ramble, with the song’s melody, its defiance, and its mordant sense of humor all fully intact.
Oldham has now released that “Outsider” cover. His wife Elsa made the cover art, which pays tribute to both Berman and the late “Outsider” writer Dee Dee Ramone. Below, listen to the Bonnie “Prince” Billy cover and the Ramones original.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s “Outsider” cover is out now on Drag City.