NICK DRAKE, one of the greatest and most romantic figures in British folk music, died 35 years ago this year, and to mark the occasion, his life and music will be celebrated in Galway.
Drake died on November 25 1974 and on Wednesday November 25 2009 Kelly’s, Bridge Street, will host a special Stress!! presents A Night of Nick Drake show featuring Glasgow’s Gareth Dickson (the guitarist with folk legend Vashti Bunyan ) and Vertigo Smyth.
American producer Joe Boyd was in Britain in the late 1960s and founded the Witchseason production company to promote and releasing records by the exciting emerging British folk-rock scene. Among his discoveries was a young singer-songwriter called Nick Drake.
Drake recorded his debut album Five Leaves Left in 1969, which revealed a singular talent, who, although indebted to British guitarists like Bert Jansch, was already at 21 creating highly original and profound music. The stand out track was ‘Riverman’, a mysterious song with a haunting string arrangement.
In 1970 Drake released Bryter Layter, which saw the young man accompanied by Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson, Dave Pegg, and Dave Mattacks and The Velvet Underground’s John Cale, which showed the kind of respect Drake commanded. The album was rich in philosophical musings, Drake’s inspired lyrics, and extraordinary music resulting in an album with few, if any, weak spots.
Drake’s final album was 1972’s Pink Moon. A completely solo effort - just voice and guitar, with one piano overdub - was possibly his finest effort. ‘Harvest Breed’ and ‘Things Behind The Sun’ were among Drake’s most personal, spiritual, and insightful songs. As Alternative Press said “one of the most beautiful and melancholy albums ever recorded”.
Drake hoped his music would touch people deeply, help them, and bring them joy. It would - but not in the artist’s lifetime. He was uncomfortable performing live, and a poorly received tour in 1970 damaged his already frail confidence as did the three albums’ commercial failure. His reluctance to do interviews also contributed to his lack of commercial success.
A further problem was that Drake suffered from depression and insomnia throughout his life. After Pink Moon, he withdrew from both live performance and recording, retreating to his parents’ home in rural Warwickshire. On 25 November 1974, Drake died from an accidental overdose of amitriptyline, a prescribed antidepressant; he was only 26.
In the years since, Drake’s music has touched many people and inspired many musicians. The late John Martyn’s great song ‘Solid Air’ is about Drake. Richard Thompson has dedicated albums to him. Cat Stevens (now Yusef Islam ) paid tribute to him by including a pink moon on the cover of his 1972 album Teaser And The Firecat. Since the 1980s Drake’s albums have been re-released numerous times to critical acclaim and to a public now ready for his magnificent music.
Doors open at 9pm and admission is €5.