Saturday, September 25, 2004

Memorial Gig for Elliott Smith

by Suw on September 25, 2004

On the 22 October 2003, I tearfully wrote with the news that Elliott Smith had died. An extraordinarily talented singer/songwriter, Elliott wrote some of the most delicate, emotive, beautiful music I have ever heard. As part of the Elliott Smith community over on the Sweet Addy message board, I had come not only to love his music but to feel a strong empathy for him, as many of his fans did.
When he died, aged 34, on 21 October, I was totally shocked and deeply upset. We all were. Unfortunately for me, Elliott's death came hot on the heels of one of the hardest, most unpleasant periods of my life, after my business had collapsed, taking me with it. I was red raw from spending eight months trying and failing to save my company.
In the days after Elliott died, people asked me why I was so upset – he was someone I had never met, never would have met, who never knew I existed. Why should I be crying over him? But Elliott didn't feel like a distant pop star to me, more like the brother of a close friend. Someone who was a palpable presence in my life, despite not being actually there.
Partly this was because there were people on the Sweet Addy board who did know Elliott, including Charlie who looks after the Sweet Adeline fan site which eventually became the official site and upon which I helped out in a tiny and insignificant – but significant to me – way. Partly it was because occasionally Elliott would pop up on the board to squash a few rumours. Partly is was because his lyrics were so honest, so vulnerable, so powerful – in the mirror he held up to the world, we all saw ourselves.
When my business went under, I had been forced to return to live with my parents, so I had neither the privacy nor the strength to really face Elliott's death at the time. I found I couldn't listen to his music without crying, so I stopped. Completely. Even thinking about him or his music upset me greatly, so I did all I could to avoid it.
Last night at ULU was held a memorial gig for Elliott, raising money for the charity Kid's Company. Last night, for the first time in nearly a year, I heard Elliott's voice, heard people singing Elliott's songs. For the first time in 18 months I met up with some of the wonderful people from Sweet Addy, people I had had the delight of hanging out with in Manchester in Jan 03. It was both a sad and happy evening. I finally had the chance not just to grieve, but also to bury some hatchets, to move on.
Right now, I am listening to Figure 8. I feel kinda sad, but the sadness has been largely replaced with the familiar warmth that the beauty of his music engenders. It's the first time I've put it on since he died. At least now I know that it won't be the last.

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