Alex Chilton Alex Chilton

Alex Chilton, the Box Tops and Big Star lead singer who served as an inspiration for generations of indie rock bands, has died. He was 59.

Chilton died Wednesday at a New Orleans hospital, where he was taken after complaining about health problems earlier in the day, John Fry, a longtime friend and owner of Memphis' Ardent Studios, told The Commercial Appeal. Chilton could not be revived in the emergency room, Fry said.

"I'm crushed. We're all just crushed," he said.

Big Star was scheduled to perform Saturday at the South by Southwest Festival.

"Alex Chilton was an artist of the very highest caliber," SXSW Creative Director Brent Grulke said in a statement. "It's too early to do much but cry about our loss right now, but he'll be missed, and missed more as the ages pass and his myth continues to expand — that music isn't going anywhere. R.I.P. and thank you, friend."

A Memphis native, Chilton rose to fame at age 16 as the lead singer and guitarist for the Box Tops, scoring a No. 1 hit with "The Letter" in 1967. The band was also known for such songs as "Cry Like a Baby" and "Neon Rainbow."

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After Box Tops disbanded in 1970, Chilton formed Big Star with Jody Stephens, Chris Bell, and Andy Hummel. Though the four never found much tremendous commercial success despite rave reviews — their first album was ironically titled #1 Record

— their introspective alternative-pop tunes are credited for inspiring subsequent indie acts, including R.E.M., Primal Scream and The Replacements.The Replacements paid homage to Chilton with its 1987 song "Alex Chilton," which contains the lyrics: "Children by the million / Sing for Alex Chilton / When he comes 'round / They sing, 'I'm in love / What's that song? / I'm in love with that song.'"A whole new generation of viewers was exposed to Big Star's music when That '70s Show used a Cheap Trick cover of the band's "In the Street" as its theme song. Chilton told Rolling Stone in 2000 that he had not heard the new version, but received $70 in royalties per airing. "It's actually ironic that the amount is $70. To me it's That $70 Show," he said.In the mid-'70s, Chilton embarked on a solo career, releasing several albums through the '80s, including Like Flies on Sherbert, Live in London and High Priest. In 1993, he reunited with Big Star, which continued to perform regularly over the last 16 years. Last September, the band issued a four-box CD set with material recorded between 1968 and 1975 called Keep an Eye on the Sky.Chilton is survived by his wife, Laura, a son, Timothy, and a sister, Cecilia.