Friday, 27 September 2013

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

10 years ago treasured singer songwriter Elliott Smith tragically took his life. Two self-inflicted knife wounds to the chest while his girlfriend was showering led to his demise. After years of substance abuse and a past of traumatic stress Smith had, by 2003, sought solace with his issues, so the media thought. “I’m so sorry - Love, Elliott. God Forgive me” Read the note. I believe Elliott Smith to have been one of the most talented and honest songwriters of all time, but does this make his death any more tragic? The same could be said about Kurt Cobain, and aptly so since 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of Nirvana’s In Utero. The question that has been riddling my brain whilst binge listening to Elliott Smith records the past few days is that what effect, if any, does death have on the way we perceive and experience an artists music?

We’ve seen it happen a few/too many times in the past five years. Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston. As not to sound insensitive any death whether publicized through the media or not is a tragic affair. Now, allow my to be respectably cynical for a moment. The state of affairs after the aforementioned passing will follow as such: BBC news will report on the loss of an artist, the commercial radio stations will dedicate an hour or whatever time they’re sanctioned to in order to pay respects and then, most importantly, the masses will dedicate their hard-earned into ITunes’ pockets to get hold of every MJ/AW/WH MP3 available. Am I suggesting that ITunes is a corporate monster that would have the audacity to capitalize on an artists death? Probably not, but that is an interesting debate to have another day.

What I honestly believe is that the death of an artist impacts more paramountly and weighs heavier on an individual scale. I haven’t been alive nor have I been dedicated to music long enough to feel the devastation of losing a favorite musician to the great gig in the sky, please excuse my youth while I attempt to emphasize on why it hurts so bad.
As listeners we know the artist. With Elliott Smith, for example, it’s apparent from his debut that he was a truly troubled soul and over his musical progression we hear and feel him struggle through his torments and eventually come out the other side, as demonstrated with his considerably more upbeat 2000 release Figure 8, but that’s exactly the point. Even though he’s approximately 768 years old I KNOW Paul McCartney will be making music for the next 5-10 years, I don’t feel worry or angst for Macca’s future, there are hundreds of potential Paul McCartney songs to be written. Death is the destruction of infinite potential. There will never be another Nirvana record because the potential died with Kurt. We emotionally attach ourselves to the art and therefore the artist. There will never be any more Elliott Smith music, we have to cherish what we have and learn to live with what sounds he’s left us with, the sound of silence.

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