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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Do You Love Nick Drake? Then Thank His Parents

Posted By on Tue, Jun 21, 2011 at 8:39 AM

Nick Drake
  • Nick Drake

Over a six-year stretch beginning in 1994, Jason Creed published 19 issues of Pink Moon, a fanzine dedicated to the life and music of deceased English folk singer-songwriter Nick Drake. Pink Moon featured interviews with primary characters in the Drake narrative, as well as dispatches regarding his burgeoning pop cultural presence. (Like this: Cool ad, shitty car.) However, the most captivating content was generally the original artwork, poetry, and testimonials contributed by fans, each submission a tiny -- sometimes opaque, sometimes cracked -- window into the impassioned soul of a Drake devotee.

Last August, Creed e-mailed me to ask for permission to include a piece I did for Stylus in a Drake compendium he was pulling together. The content was culled from issues of Pink Moon, as well as bits of writing published elsewhere. I promptly agreed and was compensated in three ways: 1.) Creed mailed me a free copy of the book, titled The Pink Moon Files; 2.) I could now include the designation "published Drake scholar" on my resume, a title guaranteed to awe potential employers; 3.) And finally, inclusion in this book meant that long after the links to my online refuse have died, there is something that confirms I once walked this earth. This is a comforting consideration, particularly since my stumble to 40 has involved being tormented by the notion that the tiny footprints I'm leaving behind will be swept away, washed over, or covered in pavement by an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act road project.

There is evidence that Drake was similarly uneasy, that until his death at 26 -- an age, quite frankly, when posthumous concerns don't regularly occupy one's thoughts -- he was frequently thinking about his legacy. There's an oft-repeated quote from his mother, Molly: "I don't think he wanted to be a star, and I don't honestly think he was the least interested in money. But, I think he had this feeling that he'd got something to say, to people of his own generation." More telling are his lyrics to various songs: "Day Is Done," "Road," and most famously, "

Fruit Tree," where Drake is bewitched by those artists who had the halo of glory attached to their names only after taking their last breaths.

Drake would come to share their fate. As issues of Creed's Pink Moon so haphazardly detailed, interest in the singer-songwriter began to swell in the early '90s, nearly two decades after he died in relative anonymity. Saying Drake was prescient, that he felt a kinship with artists who had progressed from marginal in life to venerated in death (he adored William Blake and John Keats) because he anticipated a similar destiny is an exercise in mythmaking. Drake was merely desperate, having dealt with the consequences of failure. Combined, his three studio albums sold less than 15,000 copies in his lifetime; his introverted manner alienated audiences during gigs. He failed to find success in music while alive; maybe the blind cynic in him wondered if the act of dying would hasten fame's arrival.

What he never counted on was his parents interceding. As the years accumulated and parenthood developed into my primary focus, Molly and Rodney Drake's story developed into a fixation of sorts. I became preoccupied with the acts of generosity and hospitality they committed in the name of their son. In the years following his death, fans from Europe, America, and Australia began arriving at their Tanworth-in-Arden home, Far Leys, pilgrimages spurred by a bended-knee worship of a total stranger's tiny catalog of music. The Drakes fed and bathed these visitors, some of whom later contributed to Creed's Pink Moon 15 years later. The Drakes let them snap photos of their son's untouched bedroom, gave them permission to run a hand along his small-bodied Guild M20 guitar, made gifts of the homemade music he taped on his Beocord reel-to-reel recorder, bought them pints at the local pub, and carpooled them to the gravesite.

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Ryan Foley


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