Big Star is an American rock band formed in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1971 by Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel. The group broke up in 1974, but reorganized with a new line-up nearly 20 years later. In its first era, the band's musical style drew on the work of British Invasion groups including The Beatles and The Kinks, as well as The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and other U.S. acts. To the resulting power pop, Big Star added dark, nihilistic themes, and produced a style that foreshadowed the alternative rock of the 1980s and 1990s. Before it broke up, Big Star created a "seminal body of work that never stopped inspiring succeeding generations" in the words of Rolling Stone, earning recognition decades later, according to Allmusic, as the "quintessential American power pop band" and "one of the most mythic and influential cult acts in all of rock & roll".
Big Star's first album—1972's #1 Record—met with enthusiastic reviews, but ineffective marketing by Stax Records and limited distribution stunted commercial success. Frustration took its toll on band relations and by the time a second album was completed in January 1974, both Bell and Hummel had left. Like #1 Record, Radio City received excellent reviews, but record company problems again thwarted sales—Columbia Records, which had assumed control of the Stax catalog, effectively vetoed its distribution. After a third album was deemed too uncommercial for release and shelved before receiving a title, the band broke up late in 1974. Four years later, the first two Big Star LPs were released together as a double album. The band's third album was finally issued soon afterward; titled Third/Sister Lovers, it found limited commercial success. Shortly thereafter, Bell was killed in a car accident.
The Big Star discography drew renewed attention in the 1980s when R.E.M. and other popular bands acknowledged its influence. In 1992, further interest was stimulated by Rykodisc's reissues of the band's albums, complemented by a collection of Bell's solo work. In 1993, Chilton and Stephens reformed Big Star with recruits Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies, and gave a concert at the University of Missouri. The band remained active, performing tours in Europe and Japan, and released a new studio album, In Space, in 2005. Chilton died on March 17, 2010, after being admitted to hospital with heart problems. Hummel, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, died on July 19, 2010. These deaths leave Stephens as the sole surviving founding member.