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Nick Drake
Overview | Albums | Biography
b. 19 June 1948, Burma, d. 25 November 1974. Born into an upper middle-class background, Drake was raised in Tanworth-in-Arden, near Birmingham. Recordings made at his parents' home in 1967 revealed a blossoming talent, indebted to Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, yet clearly a songwriter in his own right. He enrolled at Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge, and during this spell met future associate Robert Kirby. Drake also made several live appearances and was discovered at one such performance by Fairport Convention bassist, Ashley Hutchings, who introduced the folk singer to their producer Joe Boyd. A series of demos were then completed, parts of which surfaced on the posthumous release Time Of No Reply, before Drake began work on his debut album. Five Leaves Left was a mature, melodic collection which invoked the mood of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks or Tim Buckley's Happy Sad. Drake's languid, almost unemotional intonation contrasted with the warmth of his musical accompaniment, in particular Robert Kirby's temperate string sections. Contributions from Richard Thompson (guitar) and Danny Thompson (bass) were equally crucial, adding texture to a set of quite remarkable compositions. By contrast Bryter Layter was altogether more worldly, and featured support from emphatic, rather than intuitive, musicians. Lyn Dobson (flute) and Ray Warleigh (saxophone) provided a jazz-based perspective to parts of a selection which successfully married the artist's private and public aspirations. Indisputably Drake's most commercial album, the singer was reportedly stunned when it failed to reap due reward and the departure of Boyd for America accentuated his growing misgivings. A bout of severe depression followed, but late in 1971 Nick resumed recording with the harrowing Pink Moon . Completed in two days, its stark, almost desolate atmosphere made for uncomfortable listening, yet beneath its loneliness lay a poignant beauty. Two songs, "Parasite" and "Place To Be" dated from 1969, while "Things Behind The Sun" had once been considered for Bryter Layter. These inclusions suggested that Drake now found composing difficult, and it was 1974 before he re-entered a studio. Four tracks were completed, of which "Black Eyed Dog", itself a metaphor for death, seemed a portent of things to come. On 25 November 1974, Nick Drake was found dead in his bedroom. Although the coroner's verdict was suicide, relatives and acquaintances feel that his overdose of a prescribed drug was accidental. Interest in this ill-fated performer has increased over the years and his catalogue contains some of the era's most accomplished music. Drake is now seen as a hugely influential artist.


Five Leaves Left (Island 1969)****, Bryter Layter (Island 1970)****, Pink Moon (Island 1972)***.


Heaven In A Wild Flower (Island 1985)****, Fruit Tree 4-LP box set (Island 1979)****, Time Of No Reply (Hannibal 1986)***, Way To Blue (Island 1994)****.


Nick Drake, David Housden. Nick Drake: A Biography, Patrick Humphries.

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