Six years after losing their religion, R.E.M. is losing their drummer, Bill Berry. "I've been playing the drums since age nine," Berry said in an official statement from Warner Bros. "I'm at a point in my life where my priorities have shifted. I loved my 17 years with R.E.M. but I'm ready to ... move on to a different phase of my life."
R.E.M. will continue on without Berry, though the remaining members of the group -- vocalist Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills -- say they will not permanently replace him. Instead, other musicians will be used on future albums and tours. Emphasizing Berry's departure was on good terms, the press release states "the band wants to stress that this is an entirely amicable situation among four very good friends."
Formed in Athens, Ga., in 1980, R.E.M. is one of the most popular and influential alternative rock bands of the past 20 years. The group is currently at work on a new album (to be recorded in 1998 and released the following year) accompanied by a tour. Berry currently has no plans other than to spend time on his farm in northeast Georgia.