Jonathan Demme, whose films spanned the Oscar-winning blockbuster Silence of the Lambs and the seminal concert film Stop Making Sense, died on Wednesday. He was 73.

Demme's publicist, Annalee Paulo, told the NY Times that he "died Wednesday morning in his New York apartment, surrounded by his wife, Joanna, and three children... from complications from esophageal cancer."

Demme, who was born in Baldwin, Long Island, started his film career with Roger Corman—Time magazine wrote that he was a "junior ad man in Swinging ‘60s London when Corman tapped him to write exploitation movie scripts. (He’d eventually produce and direct them.) One of his most memorable early gigs was on [the] lurid women-in-prison picture," Caged Heat, in 1974.

A consistent force in his films has been their deep humanity. He broke into critical acclaim with 1980's Melvin and Howard, a fanciful tale about an elderly Howard Hughes, which earned a Best Supporting Oscar for Mary Steenburgen and screenwriter Bo Goldman. Something Wild (1986), starring Melanie Griffith, Jeff Daniels and Ray Liotta, became a cult favorite, and his take on mob life, Married to the Mob, is a Valentine to gritty Lower East Side New York.

Demme was equally at home examining real life people: His cousin, Episcopalian minister Robert Castle, became the focus of a warm documentary, Cousin Bobby, while he filmed a New Orleans resident's post-Katrina struggles and strength over five years in I'm Carolyn Parker.

He also directed a film of Spalding Gray's monologue Swimming to Cambodia.

And of course, the 1984 documentary about the Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense, is one of the best concert films of all time.

Pauline Kael wrote in the The New Yorker:

"Stop Making Sense makes wonderful sense. A concert film by the New York new-wave rock band Talking Heads, it was shot during three performances at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in December, 1983, and the footage has been put together without interviews and with very few cutaways. The director, Jonathan Demme, offers us a continuous rock experience that keeps building, becoming ever more intense and euphoric. This has not been a year when American movies overflowed with happiness; there was some in "Splash", and there's quite a lot in "All of Me"—especially in its last, dancing minutes. "Stop Making Sense" is the only current movie that's a dose of happiness from beginning to end. The lead singer, David Byrne, designed the stage lighting and the elegantly plain performance-art environments (three screens used for backlit side projections); there's no glitter, no sleaze. The musicians aren't trying to show us how hot they are; the women in the group aren't there to show us some skin. Seeing the movie is like going to an austere orgy—which turns out to be just what you wanted.

Demme said in an interview last year that when they were making the film Byrne asked him, "What's the difference between this and other concert films?"

Last year, he released Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids, a concert film about Timberlake's tour.

Tom Hanks, who won an Oscar for his role in Philadelphia, said in a statement, "Jonathan taught us how big a heart a person can have, and how it will guide how we live and what we do for a living. He was the grandest of men." And Meryl Streep, who starred in his last feature film, Ricki and the Flash, said of him, "A big hearted, big tent, compassionate man — in full embrace in his life of people in need and of the potential of art, music, poetry and film to fill that need."

"I am heart-broken to lose a friend, a mentor, a guy so singular and dynamic you’d have to design a hurricane to contain him," Jodie Foster said in a statement. Foster, who received an Oscar for Best Actress in Silence of the Lambs, continued, "Jonathan was as quirky as his comedies and as deep as his dramas. He was pure energy, the unstoppable cheerleader for anyone creative. Just as passionate about music as he was about art, he was and will always be a champion of the soul. JD, most beloved, something wild, brother of love, director of the lambs. Love that guy. Love him so much.”