She fled Burma and made it to Delhi on foot – where she discovered her voice. The singer of the Unthanks explains why the band fell for her spellbinding songs about heartbreak, loss, fragility and fear
“Destiny, do your worst,” declared my five-year-old son the other day. It’s a line from The First Day, a Molly Drake song he has been hearing a great deal of, as we take our new album on tour. I’m confident he doesn’t understand what it means, but he’s certainly taken by its drama. The song – hopeful and defiant, melancholic and searching – captures the essence of Molly’s bittersweet poetry.
A woman came up to me after a recent Unthanks show, with tears in her eyes but smiling warmly, and said: “That was utterly devastating.” This has been the pattern of post-show exchanges: a steady flow of women deeply moved by Molly’s words. They are confused and confounded that they don’t know more about the woman whose songs and poems they have just spent two hours listening to.
Mother of singer-songwriter Nick Drake and the actor Gabrielle Drake, Molly came to public attention in her own right only in 2013, with a limited edition release of her songs and poems, 20 years after her death and almost 40 years after the suicide of her son. We had always been fans of Nick’s music – our album Cruel Sister featured my sister Becky’s interpretation of his beautiful River Man – and we developed a relationship with Gabrielle and the Drake estate. Like many Nick fans, we were eager to hear Molly’s songs, not least because of what we might we glean about her son. [ . . . ]
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