Nick Drake Biography


Described by his mother Molly as being tall, very tall, about six foot three. His shoulders were broad and his hips were extremely thin, what gave him an extremely elegant look, a very masculine body. But he always walked with his shoulders hunched up and always wore too small shoes. His clothes were also old and shabby, like he had slept with them. And he hated being tall and being so broadshouldered. A friend once described him as being very charming and handsome, for devastating effects. This is Nicholas Rodney Drake, that was born in June 19th, 1948 in Ragoon, Burma. The reason for the exotic place is that his father, Rodney, was working for a british lumber firm and had been sent there after Gabrielle - Nick's sister, four years older - was born. In India he met Mary - or Molly - that was also there for working reasons, and they got married in the begining of the 40's. In 1952 the Drakes moved to Tanworth-In-Arden, a hamlet near Birmigham, in England. There they lived in a big brick house called Far Leys, which was a bit out of the downtown. That was the Drakes home for more than forty years.

Son of a rich family, Nick studied on the best schools of England. At the age of eight he was sent to Eagle House School, staying there until 1961, when he went to Malrborough, one of the most respected schools of that country. At this time he started studying music, learning the clarinet, the alto sax, the piano and the acoustic guitar. The latter a friend taught him playing it. He said that in six months Nick was better than him and could even teach him some things. At this time Nick was standing out as an athlete and his strong personality and his fine voice made him being the eminence of the school's choir. Although he has now the image of an unhappy and depressed young man, at this time he didn't show the depression signs that later would appear. His friends said that he was shy, but very happy and very pleasant. Nick stayed in Marlborough until 1966, when he started a trip with some friends to France and Morocco. This was a special time in Nick's life. He started writing songs and experimenting drugs such as marijuana and LSD. The legend says that they met The Rolling Stone in Morocco, being confounded with them. Returning to England, Nick lived for a while with his sister in London before going to Cambridge.

In October, 1967 Nick went to Cambridge to study English for three years. He had already composed a good material and sometimes played it to his friends, that got astonished with the songs' quality. In an anti-war festival in London, in the spring of 1968, Nick was discovered by Ashley Hutchings, bassist of Fairport Convention, that recomended him to Joe Boyd, producer who worked with the best english folk artists. Nick signed contract with Island Records and a year and a half later was released his first album, Five Leaves Left. In the summer of 1969 Nick decided to end his studies on Cambridge - against his father's will - to concentrate his attentions on his musical career. He went living in London, without a certain home. He was always living in different places and his friends described these places as not being a home. It was something temporary, without furniture and with old cartons of milk on the ground.

Besides the good things the press said, Five Leaves Left didn't sell well and the fact that Nick wasn't doing concerts helped in not increasing the numbers. Nick really did some gigs, but he didn't like doing that, he never felt confortable on stage. He was very shy and couldn't be atractive to the audience. And there was his songs, which were too complex to be played with a simple arragement. So he stopped doing gigs in the end of 1970. Besides Five Leaves Left didn't have sold well, Nick's potencial was enormous and so him and Joe Boyd bet everything on the next record, Bryter Layter, which took nine months to be prepared, because of his sofistication. Master-piece, it also was well-recieved by the press and also didn't sell well. This failure affected Nick, that started showing signs of depression.

In 1971 Nick went seeing a psychiatrist and he pescribed Tryptizol, an anti-depresssant. But he didn't show signs of a betterment. So Chris Blackwell, Island Records' boss, lent him his house in Spain. Nick stayed there for some weeks and returned feeling better, thinking in recording a new album. In the end of 1971 Nick contacted John Wood, sound engineer who worked on his two other albuns - and maybe the one who better knew Nick - and they entered the studio. In February 1972, Pink Moon was released. It was recorded only in two days. At the same time Nick decided to return living with his parents in Tanworth-In-Arden and gave up his musical career, saying that he wanted to write songs for other artists. There's not much accounts about his last days. It's known that he went to London when he was feeling better. But he was really bad, he stayed six weeks on a hospital because of depression, that made him stay without walking and even speaking. He also tried to enter in the army and work as a computer programmer, but both intentions failured. The end of his days seemed being a bit better, as long as in the begining of 1974 he worked on what could have been his fourth album. In this year he lived in Paris for a few months on a house-boat with some friends.

In November 25th, 1974, a monday, Molly was worried because was midday and Nick haven't wake up yet. She went to his room to know what was happening and discovered that her son was dead. If it was an accident or suicide, it's not known. The ones who believe in the accident say that, as an insomniac, Nick used to take an extra-dose of Tryptisol to get some sleep, and died because of a heart failure. The ones who believe in the suicide, say that he was depressed, so he killed himself. Besides his family and friends say that he would never do this and that he was cheerful the time right before his death, the coroner said that it was suicide. Other questions about him also stay without an answer: if he was or not schizophrenic, if he was or not gay, if he had or not an affair with the french chanteuse Françoise Hardy. What's known is that his music is getting more and more fans all over the world through the years because, even had died almost unknown, Nick was a genius and couldn't be unkown forever.

By : Hazey Jane

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