Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Elliott Smith

Well-regarded folk/punk singer-songwriter Elliott Smith is dead of an apparent suicide. Too bad -- I'd always heard great things about him, and what I've actually heard from him wasn't half bad.

From the article:

Smith's songs were often compared with those of Alex Chilton, Nick Drake and the Beatles, his favorite band.

I'm thinking he's going to get even more of those Nick Drake comparisons now, what with the suicide and all. Whatever had him depressed, though, was obviously self-inflicted:

Smith was born Steven Paul Smith on Aug. 6, 1969, in Nebraska; his mother was a singer and his father was a psychiatrist. He spent most of his childhood with his mother in the suburbs of Dallas and then moved to Portland, Ore., in high school to live with his father.

Smith studied piano and guitar as a youth and began composing songs when he was 13. He began calling himself Elliott in middle school, he later explained to a reporter, because Steve sounded too "jockish."

Coincidentally -- or perhaps not so -- bathetic Smiths crooner Morrissey stopped using his given name (Steven Patrick) for exactly the same reason. And he's on the record as saying (more or less) he'd commit suicide if he had the guts.

Yet, as Canadian young adult novelist Gordon Korman made clear in Don't Care High, the late-night TV heroes who always effortlessly save the day and get the girl are always -- always -- named Steve. So what career avenues are left for you when you reject this natural coolness advantage -- the so-called Tao of Steve -- and thus, the job of professional hero? There seem to be two: "confessional singer/songwriter" and "suicide."


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