Choice Cuts: The Best of Nick Drake
In recent days, the cold has become far sharper, the snow heavier. Winter is really starting to rear its head. There are certain kinds of music that just seem to have more impact around this time of year; certain artists whose songs resonate more when you can see your own breath.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Nick Drake, one of the most unique and talented singer/songwriters to ever pick up a guitar, or any instrument for that matter. His incredible fingerpicking skill, unique use of melodic textures like cluster chords, and vague, morbid lyrics make his songs stand out like those of no other musician of the time. Afflicted with severe depression for most of his adult life, Drake died of an accidental overdose of prescription pills at the age of 27.
For over 35 years, his small catalog (three albums) was virtually ignored by all but a select few. It wasn’t until 2000, when his song “Pink Moon,” off the album of the same name, was featured in a Volkswagen commercial that his music finally achieved commercial recognition. In one month, more Drake albums were sold than in the previous 36 years combined.
Check out "Pink Moon" here:
But still to many, Drake remains a mystery; an almost mythic example of a tortured artist. Counting out “Pink Moon,” which, granted, is a masterpiece, this is a list of 8 songs that I feel best show the songwriting mastery of this legendary musician.
1. “Cello Song”
“Cello Song” hails from Drake’s 1969 debut, Five Leaves Left. Drake’s debut without question owed more to the baroque style than any other record in his catalog. There are ornate string arrangements on almost every song within it. As you can imagine, “Cello Song” has its fair share of them. But Drake’s unbelievable fingerpicking interacts and compliments perfectly the mournful cello that gives the song its name. While his debut is occasionally overdone, “Cello Song” strikes a perfectly understated balance.