On this day in 1948, the great singer-songwriter Nick Drake was born. He was a very depressed guy. This has special meaning to me, because most people think of me as a depressed person. This is not especially true. What I am is an extremely anxious person. But having been on anti-anxiety medication for the last month, I have found that they have made me depressed. I’m glad to have the anxiety gone, but I’m not sure the swap is worth it. I’ve always had manic-depressive swings in my life, but this constant feeling of depression is extremely unpleasant. I feel like I have for the first time in my life a very good idea of why people kill themselves. This is unrelenting and I don’t think that the anti-anxiety meds are long for my life.
Nick Drake was a brilliant songwriter, who played the guitar beautifully, and had one of the most haunting voices you will ever hear. He released three albums but none of them ever really took off. After his third album flopped, he went back to living with his parents. Some work was done on a fourth album but that was it. One night, he took an overdose of amitriptyline, a really nasty anti-depressant. I doubt very seriously that it was suicide. But the one thing I’ve noticed is that when you are depressed, what you really want is to sleep. And amitriptyline will put you to sleep. Until reading about his death, I didn’t know that it was such a dangerous drug.
Here is the song “River Man” off his first album, Five Leaves Left. It’s kind of mysterious. I think it is about how people and their affection flows past you like a river. It’s a lament. But you don’t have to listen to the lyrics; it’s just beautiful:
This second album Bryter Layter was more upbeat, probably because of the accompaniment by Fairport Convention. Although it is probably his most accessible, I find the niceties of the music get in the way of the songs. It works best on “Northern Sky”:
And then came Pink Moon, which is his most depressing album and undoubtedly why I like him so much. The whole album is only 28 minutes long and the whole thing is on YouTube (at least for now), if you want to listen to it. But here is the title track that defies description; you just have to listen to it:
Happy birthday Nick Drake!