Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Goodbye, sweet Elliott

by Suw on October 22, 2003

I can't quite believe that I'm typing these words. Elliott Smith, one of the most talented singers/songwriters to ever grace a stage, died last night, aged 34. It appears that he took his own life.

I feel quite numb. I never knew Elliott, but I do have friends who did and everyone always commented on how shy, kind and caring he was, how happy he was to make time for his fans. Best known probably for his Oscar nominated song Miss Misery, written for the Gus van Sant film Good Will Hunting, Elliott was working on his much anticipated sixth album, From a Basement on the Hill.

Elliott had played a few gigs this year, and many of the people who went to see him commented on how well he was looking, how healthy. He'd had problems in the past with drugs and depression, but he seemed to be past that and appeared to be happy. News of his death is a bolt from the blue to most of us.

There have been rumours before, the internet being what the internet is, although they've always been short lived. But with Charlie Ramirez, who runs the official Elliott web site, posting an obituary, I have no hope that this is just another rumour run out of control.

I first bought two of Elliott's albums – XO and Figure 8 – about three years ago, but didn't really come to appreciate Elliott's astounding talent until last year, on August 29th, when Good Will Hunting was shown on TV. As I sat there watching, I started to think 'Oh, I recognise this music… this is good music… Oh my god, it's Elliott Smith!' I immediately dug up XO but couldn't find Figure 8.

Struck second time round (what was wrong with me first time round?) by the fragile beauty of Elliott's voice, I rushed out and bought everything of Elliott's that I could get my hands on, including a new copy of Figure 8. I listened to Elliott all day, every day for about six weeks. Literally. I didn't turn the radio on, I didn't put anything else on my stereo except Elliott. I read every review, every interview, every article about him on the internet that I could find, I joined the Sweet Addy messageboard and became a regular there.

In short, I think I fell in love a little. OK, maybe a lot.

But listening to Elliott whisper tales of sadness and loss in my ears did something that I will be eternally grateful for. He started me writing again.

Faced with such greatness, faced with such beauty, what do you do? Do you become resentful and angry that your own attempts fell so short of the mark, or do you smile, look up, and start working again on creating something to maybe equal it?

I started writing a novel, which I decided to name Last Call after one of Elliott's songs, in November last year. I worked hard at it and got maybe halfway through before the increased demands of my rapidly failing business stole my time. That same half-novel has now become my second screenplay. When it's finished, I will owe the seed of it to Elliott.

There are too many people on Sweet Addy now, it's overloaded. So many people were touched by Elliott, so many people fell in love with his music as I did. It's heartbreakingly sad that it had to end like this. I just hope that Elliott's at peace and untroubled by his demons.

I miss you Elliott.

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And my eyes, they sting

by Suw on October 22, 2003

The Guardian
The New York Times

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