This post is a follow up to my previous post regarding winter music. Winter in Cape Town is well and truly here and the firmer its grasp, the more I learn about what works during when the sun’s rays are less effective. Just for the record, everything is going pretty well my end and while the following music may seem sombre, introspective and downright destructive, it works, I promise.
If you follow me on Twitter, I am sure you’ve noticed me posting about Elliott Smith during the last two weeks or so. I am actually listening to Elliott while writing this and the more I listen to his sad songs, the more I wish he was still writing them. His sadness and the demons that plagued him sure makes for great listening and great listening make me incredibly happy. This is in stark contrast to Elliott Smith’s story, which is one of the saddest ever told. Honestly it is. Drug abuse, rocky relationships, Elliott lived the clichéd troubled rock star life and like so many before him, it eventually caused his demise.
His songs all have dark undertones, kind of what it would have sounded like if Bob Dylan’s wit and Leonard Cohen’s heartache hung out for a night shooting up smack over couple of bottles of red wine. Smith died from stab wounds to his chest, however, who administered them is still a mystery. It was October 21, 2003 when his flame was finally extinguished by two stab wounds to the chest. He’d had an argument with his missus and she’d locked herself in the bathroom. Apparently she heard him scream outside and when she opened the door there he was, knife still in his chest. Whether Elliott’s demons finally caught up with him or whether it was simply a fight gone horribly wrong, it robbed us of one of my favourite songwriters.
Smith delivers his vocals softly, gently and very emotionally over his acoustic guitar and occasionally his piano. His ‘suicide note’ read: “I’m so sorry – love, Elliott. God forgive me.” Listening to his music inspires me; it makes me want to inspire you, but most of all it makes me smile. That might seem a little contradictory to the tone and message behind it, but out of his great sadness he’s managed to bring me great joy. I can always turn on an Elliott Smith album and after a couple of songs I realise that regardless of what is happening in my own life, it’s not that bad, it really isn't.
I will leave you, fittingly, with a lyric written by the late, great Mr Smith. It’s from one of my favourite songs he wrote, simply called ‘No Name #1’:
“And when I go, don’t you follow, leave alone, you know you don’t belong here, slip out quiet, nobody’s looking, leave alone you don’t belong here.”
Maybe he never belonged, it seems that his demons were too strong, but you were wrong about one thing Elliott. You may not have belonged, but we noticed you leaving.