Tuesday, 16 April 2013

N is for Nick Drake

I was introduced to Nick Drake many moons ago by two good friends, Carl, and Trish. Carl played me Five Leaves Left, Drake's melodious debut album, in his Land Rover on one of our jaunts around the countryside when we were both involved in a band. I immediately felt drawn to hear more of this intricate, melancholy sound. Shortly after, my friend Trish played me some of his music at a time when I felt particularly delicate. She had kindly collected me from work on my last day at a particular job, when emotions always run high, and I was having a hard time of things in lots of ways. She sat me down in a comfortable chair with a chilled glass of white wine, put Five Leaves Left on the stereo and left me to my thoughts whilst she prepared some dinner. It was one of those moments I will always remember - it was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. In those moments - both as the moorland of Yorkshire whizzed by, through the little windows of the Land Rover, and as the evening light filtered onto my fingers whilst I sank into a comfortable chair - that I first heard the songs of the beautiful, fragile Nick Drake and his shattered soul.

Drake was an incredibly talented musician, with an ability to weave lyrics that seem to move something deep inside me. He was haunted throughout his life by depression and, as a reclusive and withdrawn individual for most of his life, his songs were, in a way, his voice. The ever recurrent mental anguish he suffered is clear in lyrics - 'And the people round your head, Who say everything's been said, And the movement in your brain, Sends you out into the rain'. Equally, songs such as Saturday Sun speak of moments of brightness in what must have been quite a dark inner life at times, also echoing how fleeting these times were 'Saturday's sun has turned to Sunday's rain, Saturday's sun won't come and see me today'. From what close friends and family of mine, who have experienced depression, have told me, his lyrics reflect very closely the experiences they have had.

A self-taught musician who studied English Literature at Cambridge, his work is infused with the kind of literary allusions so common in the work of his favourite poets, William Blake and W.B. Yeats. He uses features from the rural landscape he grew up in to reflect the emotion at the core of his music to great effect, producing often quite simple, but deeply affecting lyrics that curl sinuously around the carefully crafted music he wrote. In 1974, Nick Drake died from an overdose of anti-depressants at the age of just 26. Whilst there is still some discussion about whether this was a deliberate or accidental act, it undoubtedly took from the world a rare talent.

In 2006, Trish married another of my friends, Kenny, the drummer from the aforementioned band - to everyone's joy and delight. At the time, I couldn't make it to their wedding, but in the card I sent, I included some of the lyrics from Time Has Told Me, (above) as nothing seemed more apt on the union of two soulmates who had found each other at last. Sadly, Kenny passed away in 2008 and is very badly missed by all who knew him. He was a wonderful man and every time I hear this beautiful song it reminds me of them both.

In May 2009, I went with my friend, Amanda, to see an amazing tribute to Nick Drake's music in Birmingham Town Hall featuring, amongst others Graham Coxon, Martha Wainwright and Beth Orton.  It was a very memorable, moving and rather tipsy night!

My friend Sharon and I, have talked many times about visiting Tamworth-in-Arden, where Nick is buried, as his music has meant so much to us both. During some sadder times, we have both taken solace in his songs and sharing them together has been so important to us both.

As much as I miss my beloved Yorkshire, the lyrics from this track, Northern Sky (above), rather aptly, sums my feelings on meeting David back in 2010.

'I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons, knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you're here
Brighten my northern sky'

Thank you, Nick. Thank you for your songs. 

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