Oct 22 2008

Another Unforgettable Name: Nick Drake (1948-1974)

Published by at 4:55 pm under MP3's

During this time of remembering the one and only Elliott Smith, there is another musician worth bringing up, who is largely underrated and shares a similar aesthetic with Smith. His name is Nick Drake, and he’s been one of the primary musicians I’ve been listening to recently.  Though there isn’t really evidence that Drake had influence over Smith’s music, like some believe, there is no questioning that Drake helped formulate the minimalist style and emotional lyrics that draw so many people to Smith’s music.

Like Smith, Drake battled severe depression and died November 25, 1974, at the early age of 26, from an anti-depressant overdose. Unlike Smith, Nick didn’t experience much fame in his life, mainly because he was reclusive and reluctant to be interviewed, or play live. When he played live, he rarely spoke to his audience, and didn’t “perform” as much as play for himself, often taking several minutes between songs to retune his guitar. It’s wasn’t until recently, when Volkswagen licensed the song “Pink Moon” for one of their commercials, and his music was featured on popular soundtracks like Garden State, that Drake started getting the long overdue recognition that he deserves.

There are several reasons why I feel so attached to Nick Drake’s music. The most evident reason is that his music is among the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard. His guitar strumming is incredible, and he would practice throughout the night, messing around with different arrangements and tunings. His voice and lyrics are mesmerizing, and Pink Moon may very well be my favorite album of all time.  Another reason I feel so close to Drake’s music is because of how real it is. Although Nick was a man of few words, he was able to release his deeply feelings through his music. He didn’t seem to care much about fame or fortune, and though he had no problem with his music being heard by others, he didn’t go out of his way to get it out there.

Many of his recordings were done in his home, and Family Tree, a recently released album featuring unreleased recordings from before his debut album (Five Leaves Left) are extremely intimate and include appearances from his sister and mom. Drake felt closest with his family,  and he spent the last years of his life at his parent’s home, as his depression continued to spiral down.

Nick Drake was a man of mystery, who no one will ever fully know or understand. It’s unclear whether Nick’s death was a suicide or accidental overdose, but Joe Boyd, Drake’s record producer, believes he was “making a desperate lunge for life rather than a calculated surrender to death.” Though there is no doubt that Drake’s family knew him better than any one else did, his music reveals a very personal side of him that can help listeners to get to know him better, even in his absence.

Five Leaves Left (1969):

Nick Drake – River Man

Nick Drake – ‘Cello Song

Nick Drake – The Thoughts of Mary Jane

Bryter Layter (1970):

Nick Drake – One of These Things First

Nick Drake – Fly

Pink Moon (1972):

Nick Drake – Pink Moon

Nick Drake – Place To Be

Nick Drake – Things Behind The Sun

Family Tree (2007):

Nick Drake – Blues Run The Game

Nick Drake – Day Is Done

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Another Unforgettable Name: Nick Drake (1948-1974)”

  1. Laryssaon 27 Oct 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks so much for the great Nick Drake review. Too Shy to Stop writer Peter Ricci just wrote an article about the relationship between Drake’s music and autumn. You can read it here.

  2. Gusteon 04 Dec 2009 at 4:10 pm

    He never showed to his family that he loved them. But I wanna believe he wanted to. And he did it in his music. Her sister Gabrielle said: “He founded very hard to communicate with anyone’…’He founded more and more difficult to leave home, so he stayed, but he was always in the music room, sitting alone.’ And at that time she thought that he was like this just with his family and he wasn’t. His friends, if you could call them that, said that no one were really involved with Nick. And when you did meet him, you didn’t get to know any other people, like with anyone else, you got just Nick’… ‘It was just occasions when he seemed to come out of it just for a day or two. He sounded quite bright and cheerful. And maybe he thought that it was going to be alright. And then he slipped away again.’

    And also not wanting to perform came later, then his career was to carry on. He used to love playing to his friends. But he hated interviews and hated the crowd. And, in fact, he was unwelcome. People used to say: “What’s that?”. Yes, his tuning and all…

    All the lame things he had to do to get attention…With him, it had to happen easily and of its own accord, but it didn’t. And that’s a tragedy of the incredible artists life.

    His sister also believes that those pills wouldn’t have killed him if he hadn’t wanted to die.

    It’s rather magic than just music. His lyrics and texture… He played piano, guitar, saxophone and clarnet, his mother was an amazing song writer and very special according to what do people say, so he was incredibly gifted. And he ‘was made to float away in the life long song…’ It’s the greatest music, the highest reach. There’s no one like him. Years have prooved it.

    Listen. You don’t need anything else to get to know him really. Because it’s directly from him.

    And he needed someone to believe in him.

  3. Kateon 21 Dec 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I lived an ocean away but my heart beat along with his heart. His depth alienated him from a world that was too afraid to feel. What a beautiful soul…

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