Nick Drake was a British folk artist active throughout 1967–1974. I consider him amongst the greatest musicians to have ever graced this Earth. An exceptional writer, Drake found difficulty with conveying his genius in live performance. With a quiet, understated demeanor and prolonged gaps between songs to set up his unconventional tuning structures, his shows were moments of brilliance sprinkled amongst reportedly awkward spans of silence. He had such a profound understanding of the intricate and largely untapped potential of tuning that his impact was largely left unheard amongst the culminating consumerist nature of music that grew with 20th century pop. Drake also struggled with melancholic depression for much of his young adult years, at least some of which was influenced by his frustration with the ongoing dichotomy of niche critical praise without widespread recognition. In the fall of his last year, Drake retreated to his parent’s house in the England countryside in search of respite. On November 25, 1974, Nick was found dead in his bedroom, having taken a fatal dose of his prescription tricyclic antidepressants. It is unknown whether this was intentional suicide, or a last attempt at achieving neurochemical normalcy. And as is such with many who achieved true greatness, his due recognition arrived posthumously.
Despite his desolate tale, Drake’s works are a dark, beautiful menagerie – a nightingale standing bleak on a moonlit horizon. He embodies the purest emotion that can be attained in music, stripping away the superfluous for a raw, expressionist delivery. In his honesty comes a compatibility and suitability with a diverse spectrum ranging pathos to euphoria. From the buddings of romance, the slow grind of loneliness; a flower-adorned bridal procession, a slouched sigh in the cold and the dark, Nick Drake will muse you in solidarity. In humility, he presents his masterful guitar work, unique tuning schemes and chord progressions, compelling lyrical content, and a gentle yet robust voice that speaks so clear you’d swear if you closed your eyes that he was there right beside you. Nick sang openly about his struggles, chasing after what cannot be caught, the curses of smoking too long, the blissful mystery of an unattainable love, the relentless hand of time – but there was no greater subject than the prose of his truest adversary: the black-eyed dog of melancholy.
In his short life, Nick Drake made 3 gorgeous and practically flawless records, “Five Leaves Left”, “Bryter Layter” and “Pink Moon”. As his works became increasingly celebrated, as did the demand. The consequent delving into the archives of his creative output unearthed some of the very best songs I’ve ever heard. From the dust-covered cardboard boxes was lifted what I believe to be one of the single greatest achievements in all music, 1986’s compilation album “Time of No Reply”. Nestled snugly within this volume are a collection of bare naked reinterpretations of previously-released album tracks. These few songs have provided more catharsis and meaning in my life than perhaps any other; evidence of the undefinable, inexplicable power and spirituality of music.
In his demise brings an uncanny retrospect into life. Listening to Drake’s music now is like standing in a dimension beyond our linear time, with a birds-eye view of all he accomplished. The listener cherishes his victories as sweeter than honey, and mourns over the deep scathing pit of his sorrow. By the end of his life, Drake’s affliction had began to have a profound impact on his physical capacity to perform, to the extent that he could no longer sing and play simultaneously. In a legendary 1974 recording session, Nick put forth his last hurrah: 4 tracks that I believe sum up his genius, crowned with the diamond of his career and one of my very favourite songs of all time, “Hanging on a Star”. I encourage anyone interested in Nick Drake’s story to watch a terrific documentary about his life entitled “A Skin Too Few” (http://youtu.be/nrmR_F5XgwQ). On his epitaph reads a lyric lifted from the closing track of his final album: “Now we rise / And we are everywhere”.
Time of No Reply – Hanging on a Star (http://youtu.be/YIkSmED6dFk)
Time of No Reply – Voice From a Mountain (http://youtu.be/ZRkkEtGxlns)
Pink Moon – Which Will (http://youtu.be/A0NDxRNdQKk)
Pink Moon – From The Morning (http://youtu.be/Q2JjJPDz3EE)
Made to Love Magic – Tow The Line (http://youtu.be/hSMLvpeg9WQ)