The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

The Present Day Composer #6


Elliott Smith (1969-2003)

2 comments :

Anonymous said...

Wow...what a creepy photo...is this right before the end? He looks so....well, later photos of W.C. Fields come to mind.

Add to that the heart on his shirt, considering the way he died, and I'm getting the willies.

I have to interview his good friend Mary Lou Lord in a couple of weeks...the last time we talked, all she wanted to talk about was how great Elliot Smith is (it was around the time he was on the Oscars). I wonder if the topic will come up this time....

swac

Tom Sutpen said...

Creepy is a good word. I even got something of a chill when I found it (that's how I knew it was perfect for this blog). I assumed the photo was taken close to the end, but on reflection I'm not sure of that. It certainly looks it.

I have a number some bootleg recordings of Elliott Smith's and he was always a stirring live performer; with an extrordinary knack for interpreting other people's songs ("Waterloo Sunset", "Jealous Guy", "Chelsea Girls", "When I Paint My Masterpiece") and drawing them close to his sensibility. Not surprisingly, some of his best interpretations were of Country songs; two recordings of which I particularly cherish: Hank Williams, jr.'s "All My Rowdy Friends", which Smith transforms into something wistful, sad and funny all at once, and Hank sr.'s "They'll Never Take Her Love from Me" which is pure, near exquisite melancholia. Whenever Smith sang songs like these, he managed to connect with the core of despair that lies within the heart of all the best Country music. Of course, he embodied that despair himself and ultimately it overwhelmed him.

When I read that Elliott Smith committed suicide, I was saddened because I truly love his music, and I thought it was a greater loss by far than the death of Kurt Cobain (whose music I also have great affection for) but, like Cobain, I can't say I was surprised by it. I doubt if anyone who'd listened to his work could have been.