Enlightened Conflict

nick drake

August 7th, 2010


Nick Drake is one of those musicians you know but don’t (well. let’s say he is relatively obscure to mainstream).

Let’s call him a doomed romantic musician. He committed suicide in 1974 at the age of 26.

But while relatively obscure he consistently has one of his songs appear in an advertisement or a movie (typically used extremely well in whatever it is used in) and if you pay attention to that stuff you walk away going “what was that song and who was that singer.”

I started this post because the new ATT “rethink possible” television commercial (the one that has the fabric being draped over famous US sites across America. Uhm. I think to metaphorically show their wireless coverage. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm … anyway … whatever … this post isn’t about the use of esoteric metaphors to make a point in advertising) uses a Nick Drake song “from the morning.”

From the Morning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2JjJPDz3EE&feature=related

Most Americans discovered Nick Drake through a Volkswagen commercial in the late 90’s when “Pink Moon” was used (awesome song).

While I am not sure the use of the songs is exactly relevant to the message within the advertising (they aren’t … they just sound good … i would argue ‘lazy use of music in advertising … but … different post) the song does create a really nice feel to the commercials.

VW/Pink Moon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIOW9fLT9eY

Uh oh. May lose my mancard on this one. The movie Serendipity. Yup. I would admit that I have watched Serendipity a number of times (and not just because of Kate Beckinsale). And, while Nick Drake songs have appeared in The Royal Tannenbaums, The Lake House and Garden State and some other movies, the use of “Northern Sky” at the end of Serendipity is (to me) the best use of a Nick Drake song ever.

Serendipity/Northern Sky: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-UnlVKEIZY

(actual movie version of this song is a different arrangement)

Side note for music trivia buffs. “Life in a Northern Town” by The Dream Academy was a song written for and dedicated to Nick Drake.
Life in a Northern Town: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YablrXxFCc

Ok. Nick. He was almost unnoticed during his short career (mostly due to his almost pathological reluctance to perform live as well as there is no archive footage of Drake or many photographs). Oh. And there are no radio interviews or other audio recordings. The guy was a veritable hermit in his parent’s home.

All that was left were several albums of chilling, somber beauty. He really resembled a much darker version of his contemporary Donovan. Much more in his breathy vocals, strong melodies, and the acoustic based orchestral feel of his arrangements. His songs contain disturbing themes of melancholy, failed romance, mortality, and depression. Inspiration for his lyrics included Chaucer, Blake, Flaubert and Shakespeare. But, in fact, his music captured his essence for he was a brooding loner and often sunk into serious depression that often found him unable to make music, work, or even walk and talk. He did manage to produce one final album, Pink Moon, which is a brilliantly naked melancholy, yet with gorgeous melodies, solo acoustic album.

Anyone interested there is a 48 minute ‘art film’ about Nick Drake called “A Skin too Few.”

The director said: “A Skin Too Few is my attempt as a filmmaker to approach the silent landscapes, locations and people in the life of this unorthodox loner in the hope of understanding his state of mind.”


I don’t like all of Drake’s music. It can be a little too sparse and melancholy for me. But. His best songs are brilliant. And are on my mp3 players.

This is my nod to some good music and advertising (although probably poor use of music in the ads).


One Coment

  • daniel smith says on: July 24, 2016 at 2:00 am


    hey just to tell you, i think you missed one main use of drakes music actually i think it was the main cause of his growth in popularity again, in the 90s i think VW used Pink Moon in a commercial. It went from there, and also they came out with a boxed set of his music then which it all came from. Thanks.
    He is great. Oh and its interesting there has been research into his mother she wrote her own music and was very melancholy I forget now whether she committted suicide or not, but she vastly influenced him and some have said he kind of imitated her i guess in death too. Ironically he supposedly died from an overdose of a certain psychological anti depressant they used to give, it consisted of a series of different ones up and down the range of ones that gave as a side effect a downed out or speeded up state, at least in the first month of taking them. These drugs were an old school version of them I think developed in the 50s, and from what I understand was rare plants from the Amazon region.
    The only reason I know so much about these is I had a lot of depression myself when I wqas young, from a lot of bad events that befell me and my family. And they gave me these drugs also only a different one than he took mine was called Imiprimine. They were so strong that I actually had to go to the pharmacy every single day to get my prescription filled, because it was at first only for one it was so possible to overdose on them. (Isnt that ridiculous?) :)
    So I would go to the pharmacy and get a bottle and there would be one pill in it. Wow, I forgot that. :)
    But that was as I said due to the side effects from the drug that it could cause death. Somehow I have thought he may not have been that suicidal. Im glad I made it its too bad he didnt.

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