My OBT

What if you spent every day looking for One Beautiful Thing?

A Troubled Young Man:

26 Comments

©Island Records

©Island Records

I have a very clear memory of seeing the 1999 commercial for the Volkswagen Cabriolet for the first time and thinking, “What is that gorgeous music?” After a little digging, I discovered it was “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake, but when I went looking for more information about the artist, I was shocked to learn he’d died in 1974. His music sounded so fresh to me, I couldn’t imagine it was 25 years old. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to find the song relevant. Thanks to that commercial, for the first time ever, a Nick Drake song made it to the Billboard Top 100.

Crippling shyness, devastatingly-low self-confidence, and struggles with mental illness nearly prevented Nick Drake’s staggering talent from seeing the light of day.

©Island Records

©Island Records

“His shyness and awkwardness were almost transcendent. He sat on a small stool, hunched tight over a tiny Guild guitar, beginning songs and, halfway through, forgetting where he was and stumbling back to the start of that song, or beginning an entirely different song which he would then abandon mid-way through if he remembered the remainder of the first. He sang away from the microphone, mumbled and whispered, all with a sense of precariousness and doom. It was like being at the bedside of a dying man who wants to tell you a secret, but who keeps changing his mind at the last minute.” -Brian Cullman, talking about Nick Drake’s set at Les Cousins in 1970

He very quickly gave up on performing live, although not before Island Records signed him for a three-record deal. While he did make those three records, reviewers didn’t seem to know what to make of his music, which was all over the place by early ’70’s standards. He was too folky for jazz, too jazzy for folk, and his orchestrations swung wildly from the very spare to classical overtones to loungy horns to over-the-top cinematic strings.

“The more you listen to Drake, the more compelling his music becomes—but all the time it hides from you … It could be that Nick Drake does not exist at all.” -Mark Plummer, Melody Maker, May 1972

Of course, these days, with the lines between genres blurred, sometimes beyond recognition, his beautiful, unpredictable style, shy vocals, and lovely melodies are finally getting him the appreciation he didn’t receive during his lifetime.

Drake died in 1974 at the age of 26 of an antidepressant overdose in his childhood bedroom. It’s very sad that his music didn’t bring him peace. I certainly find it soothing. A mini-documentary was made about his life which is worth checking out: “A Skin Too Few – The Days of Nick Drake.”

Author: Donna from MyOBT

I have committed to spending part of every day looking for at least one beautiful thing, and sharing what I find with you lovelies!

26 thoughts on “A Troubled Young Man:

  1. I came late to Nick Drake but think he’s fantastic. Commercial use has been kind to him, retroactively. The first time I recall hearing him, it was in The Royal Tenenbaums, which makes perfect sense. The climactic scene of Serendipity featured “Northern Sky,” which is one of his more optimistic songs, even if it does contain the lyric “Would you love me ‘til I’m dead.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. I had never heard of Nick Drake. Beautiful, haunting music. So glad you are bringing him to people’s attention.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. His music is beautiful. I have listened for years.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gosh. I haven’t listened to Nick Drake in a long time. I “discovered” his music in about 1989 so I guess I associated it with my teenage years and stopped listening to it for a while and then just forgot. I might just have to stick some Nick Drake on YouTube next time I’m listening to music while creating art (pretty much the only time I get to properly listen to music these days). Thanks for the reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Maybe it’s because I know he is dead, but when I listened to these beautiful clips, they sounded very haunting.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow. That’s a very deeply sad ending for such a bright light.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. How sad. I had not heard of him but I love his sound. Such a talent.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The same sad old story, Joplin, Hendrix, et al. Too sensitive, too much in pain for this world…? Difference here – he wasn’t at a pinnacle of fame when his life ended all too abruptly. He has a lovely, haunting voice… the first song reminds me a bit of Blackbird, something about it…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Donna, thanks for stopping by Leighton Literature. Thought I would check out your site and the first thing I see is this article on Nick Drake, one of my favourite singer songwriters. A great read. As a companion piece, you might like to check out my review of his second album ‘Bryter Layter’, accessible through my ‘Album reviews’ section. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A great piece … do you know of the great unreleased ND song they unearthed a few years ago, ‘Tow the Line’? It’s thought to be the last thing he recorded and it sound’s great, like it belongs on ‘Pink Moon’? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EZQYH9Zj-M

    Liked by 2 people

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  12. He is so wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

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