nick drake

1 05 2007

a child of privileged upbringing, including a cambridge education, nick drake didn’t seem to be at risk for overdosing on anti-depressants. sadly, that is the fate that befell this incredibly talented, english bard. though critically acclaimed, nick’s music never achieved widespread popularity. his first album, five leaves left, only sold 4,000 copies. some believe that the limited success of this release triggered nick’s depression. in 1970, drake released bryter layter, a record with melancholy overtones and hints of opportunity lost, offset by rays of hope in the form of sweet strings, mellow horns, a jazzy flute, melodic percussion and light piano riffs. the best known tune from this album is “one of these things first,” a track reintroduced to a new generation on zack braff’s garden state soundtrack. the happiest moments shine through on “northern sky,” where nick expresses his love for a woman by comparing her to the most beautiful one – mother nature:

i never felt magic crazy as this
i never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
i never held emotion in the palm of my hand
or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
but now you’re here
brighten my northern sky

two years later, nick released his last album, pink moon – a collection of simple music and beautiful imagery, tainted by lost love, cynicism and contempt. with a running time just under 30 minutes, some might think nick didn’t have much to say. you be the judge…

from “pink moon”

i saw it written, i saw it say
pink moon is on its way
and none of you stand so tall
pink moon gonna get you all

from “which will”

which do you dance for
which makes you shine
which will you choose now
if you won’t choose mine
which will you hope for
which can it be
which will you take now
if you won’t take me

from “things behind the sun”

please beware of them that stare
they’ll only smile to see you while
your time away
and once you’ve seen what they have been
to win the earth just won’t seem worth
your night or day

after “pink moon,” nick sank into a deep depression and moved back in with his parents. in 1972, had a nervous breakdown and checked himself into a psychiatric hospital. his time away served him well, and in 1973, nick was happy again. he met a girl and started writing again; some say the 4 tracks he recorded at home before his death were the best he’d ever done. but at 6am on november 25th, 1974, nick died from an overdose of his anti-depressant medication, tryptizol. some say his death was accidental; tryptizol is a tricyclic anti-depressant, and overdosing on tricyclics is unfortunately easy. others say he was overcome by his illness and took his own life. either way, nick’s was a journey that ended way too soon. fortunately for us, we are blessed to have his music and musings to guide our own.

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