Remembering Jay Reatard’s Aggressive Approach To Writing Pop Music

With the tragic news of the passing of Memphis’ garage-punk Jay Reatard, the music world has lost one of the most prolific songwriters of the last decade. “With 22 full-length albums and over 100 releases, Jay dedicated his life to music,” a statement on his website reads.

One could barely begin to digest the newest singles, EPs or full-lengths Reatard would release before something new would come dropping out of the sky. “Jay was what few people have the capacity to be. He was transgressive and honest. His flaws were something he focused on and overdubbed and distorted until they made you forget who he really was: A person with feelings and a good heart,” Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox posted a lengthy tribute to Reatard on his band’s blog.

Explaining his craft in an interview with MTV News at the 2007 South by Southwest Festival, Jay said, “I make it up on the spot, improvise lyrics, usually start with a drum beat, come up with a chord progression and then start layering melodies and pulling ones out that don’t work. I end up with what I end up with. It’s kind of like a Polaroid of your music. It’s right then and there and I think that’s how it should be.”

But for all of his antagonistic punk sensibilities, Jay was always clear that his music was pop at it’s core. “I’m still learning to play my instrument”, he told us, even though he had been playing the guitar for 12 years. “It’s easier to hear they’re pop songs now.You can add anything you want to a pop song, but when you get away from that being a base, you kind of lose people.”

In a final and fitting tribute to the fallen star, the guys in charge of Jay Reatard’s site have also put up an unreleased song by the fallen punk hero: A cover of Nirvana’s “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle.” Rest in peace, Jay.

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