Nick Drake’s Day is Done
The good die young. A cliche, a myth, a bromide, but sometimes all too true. Nick Drake died of an overdose of amitriptyline at the age of 27 in 1974. He left us great music, deeply felt. Rich in melancholy, nostalgia, autumns and rain, Drake sang of the pain of existence shyly, but with great care. He cared about caring. He cared about folk music, Dylan and Phil Ochs, but from a distance. He seemed to view life that way, though his music conveys intimacy. Perhaps it’s an intimacy we feel if we, too, view life from a distance and feel close to that view. At least for a moment. Now and then.
Drake was deeply invested and very close to the feeling of distance. Right on top of that feeling. Paradox adds complexity.
When I hear his music, I sense someone who has taken control of his sadness and forced it inside notes, controls those notes, extends and expands his sadness through melody. Rather than being driven to sadness and not knowing what to make of it, Drake seems quite sure of his path, reconciled to it, as if melancholy is his friend, his best friend. Music is the car that takes them there.
Nick Drake didn’t have much in the way of commercial success during his life, but started gaining recognition, finally, in the early 80s. Artists and groups like The Cure, R.E.M., The Dream Academy and Lucinda Williams have noted his influence on their work. He remains a source of inspiration and contemplation to those who enjoy his melancholy music and see in him a modern day Van Gogh with a guitar.
This fall, when red and yellow leaves begin their dance along the streets of your city or town, and it’s a little cold and a little gray, give him a listen and a thought or two. Get close to his enigmatic detachments, his sweet depressions and the beauty of a view from afar. Get closer to your own sense of what connects us and what prevents fusion with the leaves, the rain, and the people on the other side of the street . . .