#961: 1969, Nick Drake, Cello Song

by Ray_North on November 25, 2014

On this day, forty years ago, Nick Drake died.

In many ways, Drake is England’s greatest lost artistic genius – an incredible talent, wonderfully gifted in so many ways – an athlete as a boy he gave up all his sport to play the guitar and write folk tunes; a keen and able scholar, he gave that all up, to play his guitar and write songs, and in 1968, whilst still a Cambridge student he recorded the gorgeous, Five Leaves Left, which I’ve already featured on these pages.

Cello Song is the opening song on the second side – it has a haunting beauty, a rare warmth as it entwines the listener around and around its sumptuous melody. The third verse is particularly poignant:
So forget this cruel world
Where I belong
I’ll just sit and wait
And sing my song
And if one day you should see me in the crowd
Lend a hand and lift me
To your place in the cloud

Alas, Drake was already suffering from anxiety and depression – after the recording of the his third, equally brilliant work, Pink Moon, he had become pretty much a recluse – indeed the legend has it that he turned up to his recording company in London, unkempt and bearded, rambling confused with the master tapes in a couple of paper bags. Sigh. Perhaps today, his problems and his obvious drug abuse would have been treated, perhaps he could have been helped – we’ll never know. By the time he was just 26, it was all over, the cause of death an overdose of anti-depressents.

It is probably right that his depression went hand in hand with his genius, many of his songs are so evocative of a a solemn and maudlin mood – the tragedy is that he died so young with so much left to be said and done.

Still, let’s enjoy what he left behind.

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