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Big Star Biography

Home > Music > B > Big Star > Biography

Birth Place: Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Years Active: 1971-1974, 1993-present
Genres: Rock, Power Pop

Big Star was an American rock band formed in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1971 by Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel. The group broke up in 1974, but reorganized with a new line-up nearly 20 years later. In its first era, the band's musical style drew on the work of British Invasion groups including The Beatles and The Kinks, as well as The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and other U.S. acts. To the resulting power pop, Big Star added dark, nihilistic themes, and produced a style that foreshadowed the alternative rock of the 1980s and 1990s.

Big Star's first album, 1972's “#1 Record,” was met by enthusiastic reviews, but ineffective marketing by Stax Records and limited distribution stunted its commercial success. Frustration took its toll on band relations, and by the time a second album was completed in January 1974 both Bell and Hummel had left the group.

Like #1 Record, 1974’s “Radio City” received excellent reviews, but label issues again thwarted sales as Columbia Records, which had assumed control of the Stax catalog, likewise effectively vetoed its distribution. After a third album was deemed non-commercially viable and shelved before receiving a title, the band broke up late in 1974.

Four years later, the first two Big Star LPs were released together as a double album. The band's third album was finally issued in 1978 titled, “Third/Sister Lovers,” finding limited commercial success. Shortly thereafter, Bell was tragically killed in a car accident at the age of 27.

In 1993, Chilton and Stephens reformed Big Star with recruits Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies, and gave a concert at the University of Missouri. The band remained active, performing tours in Europe and Japan, and released a new studio album, “In Space,” in 2005. Chilton died on March 17, 2010 after being admitted to a New Orleans hospital with heart problems. Hummel, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, died on July 19, 2010. These deaths left Stephens as the sole surviving founding member.