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Rocker Alex Chilton of the 'Box Tops' dies

Alex Chilton started in music as a teen in the 1960s, as vocalist for the psychedelic soul group the Box Tops.
Alex Chilton started in music as a teen in the 1960s, as vocalist for the psychedelic soul group the Box Tops.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Guitarist known for his work with bands the Box Tops and Big Star
  • Chilton was having heart problems and died in an emergency room in New Orleans
  • Chilton was to perform at the South by Southwest music festival in Texas this weekend
RELATED TOPICS
  • R.E.M.
  • Cheap Trick

(CNN) -- Rock guitarist and singer Alex Chilton, known for his work with bands the Box Tops and Big Star, died Wednesday.

He was 59.

Chilton was having heart problems and died in an emergency room in New Orleans, Louisiana, said longtime friend and business associate John Fry.

"Obviously, we are all stunned and deeply saddened at this news," Fry said.

Chilton started in music as a teen in the 1960s, as vocalist for the psychedelic soul group the Box Tops, Fry said. They were known for the No. 1 hit "'The Letter" and songs such as "Neon Rainbow" and "Cry Like a Baby."

After that group disbanded in 1970, Chilton formed the Memphis rock group Big Star.

Though that band had a short life, breaking up in 1974, its music catapulted the group and Chilton to cult status.

"While Big Star struggled with success commercially, their early '70s, power-pop sound is often cited as directly influencing bands like Cheap Trick, R.E.M. and the Replacements," Billboard magazine said in its biography of Chilton's group.

The evidence of that: a song the Replacements released in 1987, called "Alex Chilton."

Part of the chorus of that song is "Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round. They sing, I'm in love."

In the 1990s, Big Star got back together.

Chilton and the band were scheduled to perform at the South by Southwest music festival in Texas this weekend.

CNN's Denise Quan contributed to this report.

 
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