Nick Drake: Forgotten While He Was Here, Remembered for a While

My introduction to Nick Drake was likely the same as for many of his newer fans — a 2000 Volkswagen Cabrio commercial that used probably his most famous track, Pink Moon:


Drake reportedly sold more records from this commercial alone than from the previous 30 years combined. His music was ushered into the mainstream for an entirely new generation of music lovers to appreciate and discover.

Even so, Nick Drake is not for everyone. His autumnal style is often infused with solace, alienation, and extreme self-consciousness. To paraphrase my nephew about listening to Drake: “I like Nick Drake, but I have to be in the right frame of mind to want to listen to him.”

Yet for all its outward gloominess, the magic he created is unmistakable. Drake often tapped into nature to take us away on these wind-swept journeys through his fears and self-doubt; he was himself the personification of aloofness and sociopathy. In fact, there is not a single known video of Drake performing — he just couldn’t deal:

Fame is but a fruit tree / so very unsound

It can never flourish / until its stalk is in the ground

— Fruit Tree, from his debut album Five Leaves Left

When the day is done / down to earth then sinks the sun

Along with everything that was lost and won / when the day is done

Day is Done from Five Leaves Left

The memory comes from a distant beach / pale sand stretching far from reach

It was then I found my princess of the sand

Stange Meeting II from Time of No Reply

If the title track to Pink Moon piqued my interest in Drake, it was the track At the Chime of the City Clock, from his second album Bryter Layter, that got my full attention:


Drake released only three full-length albums, 31 precious few songs total, in his short career:

Five Leaves Left

Bryter Layter

Pink Moon


Why such a short career? Tragically, his life was cut short in 1974 at a mere 26 years old. The official cause of death was ruled a suicide by overdose from antidepressants, but some in his family dispute this claim to this day. But with the way Drake carried himself, suicide was an easy conclusion to make.

Alas, even though Drake only released only three albums, he left behind a small treasure of home recordings and demos that add another tantalizing layer to the myth and the man. Many if not all those additional recordings are included in a 72-track digital box set titled Nick Drake which was released in 2010:

spotify:album:37NXzMNSyW0RhFVM2bkACC


A troubled cure / for a troubled mind…

…some day our ocean / will find its shore

Time Has Told Me  from Five Leaves Left

Why do you leave me hanging on a star

When you deem me so high

When you deem me so high

When you deem me sooooooo high

Hanging on a Star from Bryter Layter

Since most if not all of Drake’s original tracks are linked via Spotify above, I wanted to give a shout out to Youtube user plectrum34, who’s compiled some fantastic covers of Nick Drake, complete with his own arrangements, vocals, and expert finger-picking guitar work. He hasn’t posted any new covers in five years, but please do enjoy a selection of some of my favorites:






Also, here’s a recent AT&T commercial featuring Drake’s track, From the Morning:


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