UK musicians pay tribute to songs of Nick Drake

Wed Jan 27, 2010 9:45am EST
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By Andrew Dobbie

LONDON (Reuters) - Nick Drake is an unlikely romantic hero. In the 1970s he was a minor English singer and songwriter who peddled a lyrical brand of introspection that earned him a small but devoted following and few record sales.

Dogged by depression and embittered by his lack of success, he died of an overdose in 1974, virtually unknown and unnoticed.

He was 26 years old and left a meager legacy: a disastrous career as a performer (he once left the stage half-way through a song never to return) and a handful of recordings of his sparsely beautiful songs.

Over the ensuing decades, the enduring potency of these has ensured Drake's reputation as one of Britain's great musical talents.

After his unsung career and low-key death, his name continued to be mentioned in the music press, then gradually established artists such as R.E.M. and Paul Weller started crediting Drake as an influence.

Covers of his songs by other singers, such as Lucinda Williams ("Which Will") and Norah Jones ("Day Is Done"), followed. After Volkswagen used the title track from his final album "Pink Moon" in a TV advertising campaign in 1999, posthumous stardom was sealed and the album achieved platinum status.

American Joe Boyd, at the time a prolific London-based producer and talent-spotter, produced Drake's three albums and has curated a series of concerts in Britain as a tribute to his erstwhile protégé.

Entitled " Way to Blue: The Songs of Nick Drake," a title taken from a song on the singer's debut album "Five Leaves Left" released in late 1969, the tour is dedicated to Drake's friend and arranger Robert Kirby, who died last October.   Continued...