My penchant for melancholy music continued into 2002, when I discovered an artist who had been dead for almost 30 years. I was actually one of those people who found themselves captivated by the musical selection of a Volkswagen commercial featuring a couple driving out into the country at night. The hushed vocals, the intricate guitar picking and the gentle piano added up to a brilliant song that I had to know more about.
When I picked up Nick Drake final album, Pink Moon, I knew next to nothing of the man himself; all I knew was that he played a stripped down folk music that really resonated with me. Back then, my practice when buying a new CD was to play it straight through right away and read the lyrics from the booklet as I listened. I quickly found myself fascinated with Drake and his sorrowful songs. Drake was obviously a troubled individual, but an incredibly talented one as well.
Pink Moon is Drake’s final album, released two years before his untimely death due to an overdose of antidepressants (whether intentional or not, no one knows). It’s a scant 28 minutes long and contains 11 short tracks. The entire album contains only one over dub: the lovely piano interlude featured on the title track. Otherwise, the entire album was recorded with just Drake and his guitar in the studio. While Drake’s first two albums are adorned with strings, background singers and piano, this one is so bare that it can be haunting.
At the time of my discovery, I knew nothing of the state of Drake’s mental health during the recording of this album (discussed at length in my essay found here). Without the sad background information, I found myself admiring Drake’s ability to craft such a perfect and simple album of beautiful songs evoking autumn and a coming winter. I was unaware that that imagery came from the swiftly passing season of Drake’s life on this earth. My perception of the album has changed with this knowledge, but my appreciation for it has not. I still view this as one of the finest albums ever recorded. Drake’s talent is undeniable and it’s tragic that his music never found a wide audience until years after his death and only then because of a car commercial. Still, the fact of the matter is, Nick Drake’s music is now readily available for new fans to discover. Many other old recordings of his have been restored and released, insuring that his legacy will not fade.