Music / Nick Drake

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Nick Drake, circa 1969.

One of the more influential folk singer song writers in recent memory. Nicholas Rodney "Nick" Drake (19 June 1948 25 November 1974) was an independent British musician who died tragically young, from an overdose of antidepressants, in an apparent suicide. Never achieving popular success, his reputation grew after his death. Some of his best-known songs include "Things Behind the Sun", "Northern Sky" and "Pink Moon" (which was used for a car commercial). His songwriting was of such high quality that everything in his small body of work is worth hearing. All his albums can be found on Spotify.

His big sister, Gabrielle Drake, is an actress, probably best known for TV's UFO. (Indeed, when Nick was alive, what little attention he did get from the press often referred to him as Gabrielle's brother.) In recent years, as Nick's reputation has grown, she has devoted a considerable amount of time to managing his music and seeing to the release of recordings that never made it onto his albums. She can be heard singing on his posthumous Family Tree, as can their mother, Molly. Molly Drake was a singer and songwriter as well; though she apparently never intended to release any of the recordings she made in the 1950's, in 2013 an album of her music, Molly Drake, was released. Joe Boyd, Nick's producer, called Molly's music "the missing link in the Nick Drake story."

Discography:
  • Five Leaves Left (1969)
  • Bryter Layter (1970)
  • Pink Moon (1972)

Tropes present in the work and life of Nick Drake:

  • Baroque Pop: His first two albums.
  • Cut Song: A short instrumental "Plaisir D'Amour" appears at the start of the Pink Moon Side B master tape with explicit notes not to release. It eventually appeared as a hidden track on "A Treasury".
    • Five Leaves Left has "I Was Made To Love Magic" (cut because it was too similar to "Way To Blue") "Time Of No Reply" (cut because it was too similar to "The Thoughts Of Mary Jane"), as well as "Joey", "Clothes Of Sand" and "Mayfair" from the sessions.
    • Bryter Layter's outtakes included "Things Behind The Sun", "Parasite", "Place To Be" and "Voices / Voice From A Mountain". The first three were later recorded for "Pink Moon", and "Voice From A Mountain" was recorded for the unreleased fourth album. Particularly, "Things Behind The Sun" was frequently played live on the Five Leaves Left tour, leading to a lot of confusion when he didn't include it on "Bryter Layter".
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Nick Drake became much better known after his death.
  • Despair Event Horizon: No one knows exactly what it was, but some weeks prior to his death, Nick became selectively mute around his parents, was heard talking to himself about the violation of his human rights, would go out at random times of day. On the night of his death, he came home from one of these visits and immediately went to bed unusually early and no one knows exactly why. After his parents had gone to bed, he got up again and took the fatal overdose, which killed him at around 6am.
  • Miniscule Rocking: Most songs on Pink Moon are below the three minute mark.
  • New Sound Album:
    • Bryter Layter added some jazz textures to the arrangements.
    • Pink Moon featured none of the orchestration on his first two albums, being performed completely on acoustic guitar with the exception of an overdubbed piano on the title track.
    • The never completed fourth album (of which "Rider On The Wheel", "Hanging On A Star" "Voices/Voice From The Mountain", "Black Eyed Dog" and "Tow The Line" were to have formed the first side), shows Nick taking influence from the tunings of North African music, most evident in "Black Eyed Dog".
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: The Trope Codifier, if not a Trope Maker.
  • Rearrange the Song: Five Leaves Left outtakes "I Was Made To Love Magic" and "Time Of No Reply" had appeared with relatively simple orchestration on the "Time Of No Reply" compilation in the 80s. However, when putting together its official replacement "Made To Love Magic" in the early 2000s, Robert Kirby rediscovered his original lusher orchestration that would have been added to the tracks had they been mixed for Five Leaves Left, and newly recorded it. As a result there are distinctly different versions of these tracks, with the version of "Magic" having a sparseness close to "Way To Blue".
  • Repurposed Pop Song: "Pink Moon" was used in a Volkswagen ad, and AT&T used "From the Morning" in a 2010 commercial.
  • Single Stanza Song: "Harvest Breed".
  • The Muse: Drake is cited as an influence by a truly staggering number of musicians, when you consider how small his fanbase was when he was alive. Robert Smith of The Cure, Damon Gough (AKA Badly Drawn Boy), Beth Orton, and Peter Buck of R.E.M. are probably the most famous. Brad Pitt is a fan, and narrated the documentary Lost Boy: In Search of Nick Drake for BBC Radio 2. "Solid Air" by John Martyn and "Life in a Northern Town" by The Dream Academy were written as tributes to him.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Drake's music is generally quite intricate, with Baroque guitar playing techniques and often similarly competent accompaniment, so he does not really fit this trope for the most part. However, Pink Moon is a lot more stripped back compared to the previous two albums (cf. New Sound Album above). The recording of "Place to Be" on Pink Moon might be a good example of this trope. On earlier versions, he fingerpicks it intricately, but on the album, he mostly just strums it. This is sometimes said to be a sign of his lack of enthusiasm, but it is more likely just because he found it easier to play.
  • The Something Song: "Cello Song".
  • Uncommon Time: "River Man" is in 5/4.

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