It's been just over a year since one of the best songwriters I've ever encountered died. On October 21, 2003 Elliot Smith died of two stab wounds to the chest. I've never heard whether the death was finally ruled a suicide or a murder. Elliot was one of those tragic characters we see every so often in the world, and I suppose that's why he captivates me (and many others) so much. He had so much talent, but he was so fragile. His earliest songs were simple, often just Elliot and his guitar, but they had such emotional depth it is impossible for me to listen to them and be unmoved.
I am saddened not only by Elliot's death, but by the fact that I didn't become a real fan of his until after his passing. Just recently I was in Borders with my wife, bragging on Elliot's music when I noticed a book with him on the cover. I showed it to my wife and began reading the dust jacket. I was more than dismayed to see that Elliot had died the previous year. WHY do so many of the most brilliant people die so young? Is it the price they pay?
I am well aware of the tendency of people to romanticize the fallen, and I know that I'm doing that in Elliot's case. But it somehow seems appropriate because his situation was so tragic. Just when he was coming out of his drug-addled lifestyle, just as what was to be his last project was taking shape, he is cut down. I think the aforementioned CD, From a Basement On the Hill, will win even more fans. I listened to the preview on MTV.com and I think the CD is one the most creative, touching pieces of music I've heard in a long time.
Elliot, I'm sorry I never got the chance to fully appreciate you while you were with us. You are missed.