Nick Drake, circa 1969.
One of the more influential folk singer
song writers in recent memory. Nick 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 1950s, 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."
- Five Leaves Left (1969)
- Bryter Layter (1970)
- Pink Moon (1972)
Tropes present in the work and life of Nick Drake:
- Creator Breakdown: After releasing two albums to a largely indifferent reception, Drake's despair on Pink Moon is particularly striking.
- Dead Artists Are Better: Nick Drake became much better known after his death.
- Doing It for the Art: The almost obsessive practice Drake put into his guitar certainly shows in his effortless playing.
- Missing Episode:
- Or a variant thereof: While we have three albums, several bootleg albums, pictures and some home footage from his childhood, no moving footage of an adult Nick Drake exists anywhere.
- The four tracks he recorded for John Peel had the tapes officially wiped (as the BBC did at the time), but two of them were taped and bootlegged. For years, the other two tracks were thought to be lost, but it turned out another person taped them at the time. They might be released officially at some point if the appropriate release came up.
- New Sound Album: 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.
- Perishing Alt Rock Voice: The Trope Codifier, if not a Trope Maker.
- Repurposed Pop Song: "Pink Moon" was used in a Volkswagen ad, and AT&T used "From The Morning" in a 2010 commercial.
- Revival by Commercialization: See Repurposed Pop Song above.
- 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.
- Word of Saint Paul: Averted in the case of his sister, Gabrielle. She has made it clear that she does not believe she has any special insight into the meaning of Nick's work.