45 years ago on November 25, legendary singer-songwriter Nick Drake passed away, aged 26. To mark his anniversary, we’re revisiting Adrienne Murphy’s reflections on his legacy, originally published in Hot Press in 2004, following the release of Drake’s compilation album, A Treasury.
It’s thirty years since Nick Drake passed away from an overdose of anti-depressants, aged 26. At the time of his death the reclusive Drake was barely known outside a circle of devout admirers. Yet today he’s every second musician’s favourite musician. Like the poet William Blake, whose work he adored, Drake’s reputation for innovative genius only flourished posthumously.
A Treasury is a compilation of songs taken from Drake’s three albums, Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970) and Pink Moon (1972), along with a couple of tracks that he recorded shortly before his death. This is deep, beautiful music that rewards repeated listening; songs that you want to learn so you can carry them in your heart. Drake’s husky, gentle voice – a balm for the soul – and intricate finger-picking guitar style have been imitated so many times they’ll be familiar to newcomers. But here is the original, with the high lyricism and musical knowledge – hear those classical string and jazzy brass arrangements! – that carry Drake’s particular brand of folk towards the celestial blue.
“I was born to use my eyes/Dream with the sun and the skies/To float away in a lifelong song/In the mists where melody flies.” Drake seems to yearn for eternity. In classic romantic poetry, he sings of mortality in a way that hints at his own demise. His songs would break your heart, but there’s a flip-side of irrepressible joy and wonder. A Treasury provides an excellent starting point from which to explore the work of this man, whose extraordinary sensitivity was both his shining star and the black dog that chased him, too young, from this world.