The story of Nick Drake is one of despair, depression and loneliness. He received little recognition during his short life and yet more than 30 years after his death, Drake’s celebrity is more consuming than ever. This song was used in a Volkswagen commercial in 2000, resulting in more albums to be sold that year than the previous 30 years combined.
Drake was a gifted singer/songwriter from a wealthy English family and throughout prep school and university (he studied English Literature at Cambridge), he developed a distinct guitar style and lonely, brooding songs that were unlike other hippy-esque music being produced at that time. He had terrible stage fright and was painfully shy, refusing to do interviews or make public appearances. Heavy drug use and commercial failure pushed the already introverted Drake deeper into isolation and despair. Before the release of his final album, Pink Moon in 1972, Drake moved back with his parents in rural Warwickshire it was there that he died in 1974 at the age of 26, due to an overdose of his prescription depression medication. To this day, questions swirl around every aspect of Drake’s life, from his musical influences, drug use and sexuality to whether or not he intentionally killed himself.
Drake was very much ahead of his time. Now recognized as a genius, artists such as the Cure, R.E.M., and Air have cited his work as a major influence. While he sang and played the guitar beautifully, it’s his songwriting that has earned him the most recognition. If you’re intrigued by this tragic story, pick up a copy of Darker Than the Deepest Sea: The Search for Nick Drake by Trevor Dann. Because Drake was a man of very few words who spent most of his life locked in his room alone, smoking weed and strumming away on his guitar, it’s hard to really know very much about him. When I read Dann’s book, I finished it with more questions than answers but it was a good read. As Jerry Erbele describes it, “Somehow, Dann captures enough of the shadow that was Drake that we care when the light is extinguished and the shadow lost. Given Drake’s fierce reserve, this is no small accomplishment.”
On a related note: I’m pretty depressed the weekend is over.