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Bill Berry

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Biography

Bill Berry was the longtime drummer for R.E.M., arguably the most important and influential American rock band of the post-punk era. Born July 31, 1958, in Duluth, MN, he was raised in Macon, GA, and while attending junior high school met bassist Mike Mills; despite early personality clashes, the two played together in a number of local bands and eventually became best friends, jointly attending the University of Georgia. There they formed R.E.M. with singer Michael Stipe and guitarist Peter Buck. Honing an atmospheric, jangly pop sound often reminiscent of the Byrds, the group toured relentlessly prior to issuing their debut single "Radio Free Europe" on the tiny Hib-Tone label in mid-1981; and after the record's success on college radio attracted the attention of IRS Records, they released the Chronic Town EP a year later. R.E.M.'s first full-length album, 1983's Murmur, cemented their reputation as critics' darlings. Despite little mainstream airplay, 1984's Reckoning reached the Top 30, and with the darkly beautiful follow-up Fables of the Reconstruction, the band earned increasing MTV visibility for the videos "Can't Get There From Here" and "Driver 8." While 1986's Lifes Rich Pageant revealed a growing awareness with socio-political concerns (among them environmental issues and American foreign policy), the following year's Document was R.E.M.'s commercial breakthrough, buoyed by the Top Ten hit "The One I Love." Released on Election Day 1988, the Warner Bros. label debut Green was R.E.M.'s most pointedly polemic effort to date, although the hits "Stand" and "Pop Song 89" also reflected the band's wry sense of humor. Following the Green tour, R.E.M. took an extended break, during which time Berry, Buck, and Mills teamed with singer/songwriter Warren Zevon to record an LP as Hindu Love Gods. R.E.M. returned in 1991 with the chart-topping Out of Time, which generated the Top Ten hits "Losing My Religion" and "Shiny Happy People." The elegiac masterpiece Automatic for the People followed, and as alternative rock took over the pop charts, the band was widely acknowledged among the chief inspirations behind a generation of new artists. While touring in support of 1995's Monster, Berry suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm while on-stage in Switzerland. He recovered within a month, but in October of 1997 Berry shocked fans and the media with the announcement that he was amicably exiting R.E.M. to retire to life on his farm. The remaining members continued on as a three-piece. ~ Jason Ankeny

Birth Name:

William Richard Berry

Born:

14 September 1930 in Benton Harbor, MI

Genre
Years Active:

'40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Influencers

Contemporaries