Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Elliott Smith: Celebration of a hopeless beauty 3 years after his death


Every so often there comes an artist whose work seems to impact you so profoundly during a specific event in your life that it seems they are having a direct conversation with you. For some it is a glance upon a painting that brings an understanding of the magnificence of nature. For others, a poem that resounds in the thoughts of the reader. Books that take us just where we want to go. Or simply, a song that when played, connects so deeply to a situation, person, emotion, or connection, that it moves not only in our ears but through the inner depths of our souls. For me, it was Elliott Smith who reached through the speakers of my car radio on one of the most painful nights of my life this summer. I understood his songs in a new way that I had previously never before experienced them. For those of you who have been deprived the great honor of cozying up to Elliotts music on a rainy day, you may remember his song "Miss Misery" from the Goodwill Hunting Soundtrack, nominated for an academy award for best song in a motion picture. That soundtrack was just a sliver of the grandeur that was his musical career. Elliott, a man whose nature glimmered beauty and desperation symbiotically, was in my mind one of the truest forms of an artist within my lifetime. Many of our generation can so easily identify with his genuine soulish struggles: the realization that life as we know it, can be hopeless, and yet, every so often we see simple reflections of hope that profoundly move us as a contrast to the complex pains of life. Unfortunately, in Elliott's case, these reflections were not enough to tame the tragic struggles that befell him. In October, 2003, Elliott stabbed himself to death at the age of 34.
One of the greatest failures of Elliott's career partnered with this death was the dealings of his last family of songs known as "the Basement" recordings. From this material Elliott's last album "From a Basement on a hill" was composed. The tragedy lies in the fact that this album was not necessarily the album Elliott would have intended. Due to legal restraints imposed by existing family members, more than 50 tracks went unreleased due to personal matters discussed within the lyrics of the songs which supposedly cast the family members in a negative light. In other words, Elliott's last goodbye to us is locked in the vaults of a music studio somewhere in Los Angeles.
On a more positive note, however, three more of these songs were recently leaked onto the Internet; an event that hopefully will promote the future release of quite possibly his best art.
For me, Elliott's music will always serve as the letters of a friend in times of turmoil. They are reminder that nothing that beautiful should ever have to die. That it is worth going through the pains in life if only someone else should benefit from them.
Anyways, please listen to his new tracks and check out any of his CDs(Elliott Smith, Roman Candle, Either/Or, Figure 8, Basement on a Hill). I hope that you are able to appreciate his life in the way I have.

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