R.I.P. R.E.M.

R.E.M. announced today its breaking up. From the band’s website:

To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.” R.E.M.

In their own words: The guys share their thoughts on why now.


“During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, ‘what next’? Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together.

“We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this–there’s no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We’ve made this decision together, amicably and with each other’s best interests at heart. The time just feels right.”


“A wise man once said–‘the skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave. We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we’re going to walk away from it.

“I hope our fans realize this wasn’t an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.

“We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It’s been amazing.”


“One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M. was the fact that the records and the songs we wrote meant as much to our fans as they did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by you. Being a part of your lives has been an unbelievable gift. Thank you.

“Mike, Michael, Bill, Bertis, and I walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone who has followed us and supported us through the years. Even if it’s only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of the club: watching a group of 19 year olds trying to change the world.”

It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Beatles 40 years ago or a band from this generation, the reactions are usually the same when an iconic band splits. Why? I’m no music expert but music provides the one link we have to a moment in our lives. Recall a piece of music, and you can live the moment. It’s the closest thing we have to time travel.

Music — the right music — can also speak our feelings we dare not speak, and allow a message to sink in we otherwise wouldn’t hear.

And in the end, the world changes because of music. Maybe.

Your favorite R.E.M. song? And why?

  • matt
  • melissa

    I disagree, Matt. I love Everybody Hurts. It’s one of those songs that cuts right to the bone for me. A song that I would listen to and ache with, but feel comforted by.

    Nightswimming is one of my other favorites. Haunting, sweet, just perfect.

  • RandBall’s Stu

    They were my favorite band at a time when that kind of thing was really important. I’ll miss ’em. And Pretty Persuasion is my favorite because it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.

  • Bob I

    Going early: Carnival of Sorts, Shaking Through and Harborcoat. Melodic, harmonic artsy jangle pop at its finest.

  • Tyler

    I’m going to tentatively poke my head out and say I’ve never liked REM. The lead “singer” always sounded like he was talking his lyrics…to me at least.

  • vjacobsen

    Strange Currencies. Why? Because it’s stuck in my head now after thinking about this, and it’s bringing me back to a specific place and time, which is what all the best songs do.

  • David G

    I’m going to say “Begin the Begin”, for a somewhat odd reason: The opening chords were the first recognizable chords for me after hours and hours of listening to music after my cochlear implant activation.

  • Heather

    LOL, matt! I think Automatic for the People is a great album, including “Everybody Hurts”, but your opener really did make me laugh.

    Perfect Circle.

    Radio Free Europe.

    Driver 8.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Two faves:

    1) Losing My Religion”, because I liked the title and the mandolin music.

    2) “The One I Love”, because of how a dear friend reacted when I told him that Stipe was gay. He visibly squirmed to think that his favorite song was dedicated to a man. (Served him right, for not being secure in his own sexuality, and for not reading the lyrics. It’s actually a paen to narcissism.)

  • Mike Bennett

    “Electrolite”-It’s just a beatiful tune with simple piano and wonderful lyrics, like “you are a star tonight.” I was never a fan, until seeing them live on the Vote For Change tour. They were amazing!

  • jAMIE

    Great headline, Bob.

    I don’t know R.E.M.’s work very well. I think I know what “Everybody Hurts” sounds like; it was a pretty good song. But I have to say that a favorite (if someone like me who doesn’t know their stuff can choose a favorite) would be “Shiny Happy People” (that WAS R.E.M., wasn’t it?) because we used to use it in aerobics class and it was really great for that and, extrapolating, for dancing (aerobics is like dancing for me). I don’t know what all the lyrics were, but it sounded like what its title suggested.

  • Jamie

    Ok, I just watched a couple of the “Everybody Hurts” videos. I do like that song — more than I remembered, even by high-schoolers.

  • JF

    Terrific, mind-altering albums (’80-’89 especially) and an unparalleled live band from the beginning. As good as it gets.