Friday, October 13, 2017

Discovering Nick Drake

More than twenty years ago now, my good friend Jerry, whom I have known since high school, and who has a wide range of musical tastes, shared a CD with me called Pink Moon by a British artist named Nick Drake. When I listened to it, I was instantly hypnotized by his haunting voice and amazing guitar playing. The songs were stark, simple, somewhat dark....very much "not" like anyone else I had ever heard. He only made 3 albums in his short career, so I quickly bought them all. Pink Moon was his last album. Five Leaves Left and Bryter Layter were his first two, and have a much different sound then Pink Moon, but are equally as interesting. These first two albums incorporate a variety of interesting styles and instrumentation, and have some very "classical" sounding arrangements. Here are a couple of examples:

Fly. This song was used in the soundtrack to the "quirky" 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums. It uses the very unusual combination of acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, viola, and harpsichord. The lyrics are simple and the tone of his voice combines with the instruments in a very elegant way.

Another song with a classical music infusion is "Cello Song." Once again, a simple, sparse sound with some percussion, acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, vocal, and cello.

The last song I will share is a short instrumental piece called Introduction...the first cut from the Bryter Layter album. It features an acoustic guitar backed by a string ensemble. Very beautiful. Very "classical."

It is hard to describe Nick Drake's music, and I am not going to try and compare it to anyone else. You can do that for yourself. But I love his music and wish that he had lived longer to continue to write and record. He died in 1974 from an overdose of medication he was taking for depression, a condition he battled his entire life. His music has gained recognition and appreciation in the years since his death. It is sad he was not appreciated during his lifetime.
I hope you find his music as fascinating and fulfilling as I do.

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