NU: Elliott Smith 10 years on.
This day 10 years ago the world lost the American singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, he was just 34.
Life: Elliott Smith was born August 6, 1969 in Omaha, Nebraska. After playing in the rock band Heatmiser for several years, Smith began his solo career in 1994, with releases on the independent record labels Cavity Search and Kill Rock Stars. In 1997, he signed with DreamWorks Records, following which he rose to mainstream prominence when his song “Miss Misery” was included on the soundtrack of Good Will Hunting and subsequently nominated for an Oscar in the Best Original Song category in 1998.
Smith released 5 studio albums including the classic “XO” gaining a cult like following of dedicated fans. In 2001 his song “Needle In The Hay” was included in the film The Royal Tenenbaums, providing a stand out moment in the film that grew his reputation as a musician.
Death: Smith died on October 21, 2003 from two stab wounds to the chest at his home in Echo Park, California where he lived with his girlfriend, Jennifer Chiba. According to Chiba, the two were arguing when she locked herself in the bathroom to take a shower. She heard him scream, and upon opening the door, saw Smith standing with a knife in his chest. She pulled the knife out, after which he collapsed and she called the police. A possible suicide note, written on a Post-it note, read:
"I’m so sorry—love, Elliott. God forgive me."
His death is thought to be a suicide yet no hesitation wounds were found on Smith, a trait typical of self inflicted suicide. The coroner’s report also revealed that no traces of illegal substances or alcohol were found in his system at the time of his death.
10 years on: At the time of his death, Smith was working on his sixth studio album, “From A Basement On The Hill”, which was posthumously completed and released. The album “New Moon” was also released after his death in 2007 and is a compilation of rarities and unreleased music from Smith’s time at the label Kill Rock Stars.
Since Smith’s death, many musical acts have paid him tribute. Songs in tribute to, or about Smith have been released by the likes of Pearl Jam and Grandaddy among many others.
For me as a critic and music fan, I think his work still sounds as fresh today as it ever did and definitely deserves to be remembered. He was truly one of the greatest songwriters of a generation.
Words by Lewis J. Henderson