Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Nick Drake: A Magnificent Ever-Shining Star: Would Have Been 64 Today



Nick Drake is quite possibly the finest male singer-songwriter--in the chanson mode--Britain has ever produced.
He exuded quality, charm, charisma, sadness, tears, cream teas on verdant lawns, perfumed flowers, everything that was quintessentially English.
Very, very posh, Nick didn't have the greatest home life. His parents loved him, of this there is no doubt, but according to his last lover, Michel Billaut, who I knew well, his parents were ashamed of him--not just because he was gay, but because he had problems with depression. Maybe the two went hand in glove.
It's generally believed that Nick took an overdose--some on purpose. I researched him well, and it's just not true. He was prescribed amyltriptylene for depression, a drug I know only too well. He took two before going to bed, dozed off while listening to the Brandenburg Concertos, woke up, and took two more. His mother, God bless her, threw the rest of the pills away so that everyone believed that he'd taken the full bottle. Her theory was that he wanted to die. Michel's theory was that Nick's parents would rather have had him dead than outed as gay, or let the neighbours know that he had 'mental issues'. They put poor Nick in an institution when he became really unwell--not in a private room, which as wealthy people living in a huge manor house they could easily have afforded--but on a general ward full of screaming patients, an exercise which only made matters worse.
Nick only ever gave one press interview, there are only around forty photographs of him in existence, absolutely no footage of him as an adult--well, a tiny bit I was shown where he was with Francoise Hardy, and another clip of him on a barge on the Seine--and he gave only a handful of concerts.
Many years after he died, he was rediscovered, and he has since earned millions which has gone to others who may or may not have appreciated him. His sister, Gabrielle, appeared in Crossroads, and has championed his memory magnificently. The world remembers him as a moody, erratic, shy person. Michel remembered him as a 'giggly' young man with a short temper, who often walked around the apartment wearing nothing but a towel, swearing and smoking a lot. His very last performance--accompanying himself on the guitar and singing just three songs--took place at LÉcluse, the little venue on Paris' Left bank where Barbara started out. He and Michel had just been to see Cora Vaucaire, a great star who he admired and who survived to well into her nineties.
Nick died young, and will always remain so, even though today, 19 June 2012, he would have been celebrating his 64th birthday. 


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