Elliott Smith dead at 34
October 21, 2003 11:01 PM   Subscribe

Musician Elliott Smith is confirmed to have committed suicide this evening at the age of 34.
posted by dayan (83 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ack. Sad news. I love Needle in the Hay.
posted by dobbs at 11:03 PM on October 21, 2003

If anyone is wondering about the odd phrasing of dayan's post, it's probably because this rumor has been flitting around various fan sites and web forums. This message from charlie who runs the elliott smith site apparently confirms that he did in fact die today.

Terribly sad.
posted by malphigian at 11:05 PM on October 21, 2003

Pretty much. These sorts of rumors have been spread before, so it was hard to gauge how believable this one was, until Charlie confirmed it. RIP Elliott.
posted by dayan at 11:16 PM on October 21, 2003

Who knows where his talents could have led him.. so awful.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:17 PM on October 21, 2003

Beatrice Ashley was confirmed to have died on or about Mon, 11 Dec 1989.
posted by quonsar at 11:18 PM on October 21, 2003

This breaks my heart. In so many pieces.
posted by mindless progress at 11:18 PM on October 21, 2003

RIP Elliott. Awful. Don't know what else to say. Ugh.
posted by fillsthepews at 11:19 PM on October 21, 2003

:( Listening to too much of his music always made me depressed. RIP.
posted by emyd at 11:23 PM on October 21, 2003

Wow. Elliott Smiths music is beautiful and yet it always struck me as sad, somewhat mournful. He always reminded me a bit of Nick drake in being able to produce these quiet and introverted but still catchy melodies.

When I was younger with more bravado (or cowardice or blindness) than sense, I always told myself I'd be dead by 35, that the accumulated weight of life would be unbearable by then. I'm past that but somehow this, Smiths music and story, brings back memories of many of those feelings of self-torment.

posted by vacapinta at 11:35 PM on October 21, 2003

posted by Satapher at 11:37 PM on October 21, 2003

posted by obloquy at 12:10 AM on October 22, 2003

I just noticed Lenny Kravitz rips off Black Nasty, heavily.
posted by the fire you left me at 12:20 AM on October 22, 2003

In what way, exactly, does a post on a fan site qualify as "confirmation"?
posted by jjg at 12:23 AM on October 22, 2003

jig, when the fan's site is the official site, as is, i believe, the case here.
posted by dobbs at 12:30 AM on October 22, 2003

[this is sad]
posted by bshort at 12:32 AM on October 22, 2003

posted by joedan at 12:34 AM on October 22, 2003

Never heard of him. Who is he? How about a proper front page link?
posted by salmacis at 12:42 AM on October 22, 2003

A really great singer/songwriter.

his allmusic bio:

Folk-punk singer/songwriter Elliott Smith rose from indie obscurity to mainstream success in 1997 on the strength of "Miss Misery," his Academy Award-nominated song from the film Good Will Hunting. A native of Portland, OR, Smith began writing and recording his first songs at age 14, later becoming a fixture of the city's thriving music scene; as a member of the band Heatmiser, he debuted in 1993 with the LP Dead Air, issuing his first solo effort Roman Candle on the tiny Cavity Search label a year later. For his 1995 self-titled album, Smith signed with the noted Kill Rock Stars label; Either/Or followed in 1997, around the same time that filmmaker and longtime fan Gus Van Sant requested permission to use the singer's music in his upcoming Good Will Hunting. Smith also composed a handful of new songs for the soundtrack, among them "Miss Misery," and when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its Oscar nominations the following February, the track was a surprise entry in the "Best Original Song" category. Although he did not win, Smith performed the song live at the televised Oscar broadcast, appearing onstage alongside superstars Trisha Yearwood and eventual award-winner Celine Dion in one of the most notably surreal musical moments in recent memory; his DreamWorks label debut, XO, followed later in 1998, and Figure 8 arrived in early 2000.
posted by yupislyr at 12:47 AM on October 22, 2003

Man, what a bummer. This has been a really crappy year.
RIP Elliott.
posted by black8 at 1:33 AM on October 22, 2003

I wish I could say something that mattered here. I can't. I'm listening to Figure 8, in shock. And then I will play XO. And then I will play both of them again.

I want to hear "Miss Misery" since I never got around to buying the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, but the iTunes Music Store doesn't have it.

black8, you said it.
posted by litlnemo at 2:28 AM on October 22, 2003

NME (Brit magazine as old and prestigious as the U.S. "Billboard") is now running a story with the caution "The official cause of death is currently unclear." (02:30 PDT)

posted by Twang at 2:29 AM on October 22, 2003

really sad. i liked waltz #2 and "needle in the hay" a lot. remember reading an interview with him in spin. he was unaccountably morose then, and i guess it didn't get better.
posted by jcruelty at 2:37 AM on October 22, 2003

Smith gave a rare interview, a couple months ago, to an alternative music magazine (don't remember which, sorry, he was also on the cover) where he admitted his heroin addiction and said he was now clean thanks to a new, non-FDA approved system (the so-called "rapid detox" where chemicals apprently clean up your system from opiates while you are under general anesthesia). he said work on his new album was going well. this is really sad, smith's music is something very special
posted by matteo at 2:52 AM on October 22, 2003

I've never heard of him, although I'm sure I've heard his music if it was on Good Will Hunting. I was actually thinking earlier today that I need some new music to listen to, so maybe I'll pick some of his stuff up tomorrow.

Contrary to some earlier comments, I thought the link provided was quite poignant. It's always interesting to have an actual human side to the equation, a reaction from someone who has more of a personal connection to make the information more than just another statistic.
posted by The God Complex at 3:07 AM on October 22, 2003

posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:10 AM on October 22, 2003

posted by ed at 4:38 AM on October 22, 2003

I've always loved his music, and recently I got Figure 8. Tonight I'm definitely going home and listening to the few albums I have all the way through.

vacapinta: I get the same feeling about his music; beautiful, but very sad.
posted by thebabelfish at 5:20 AM on October 22, 2003

"i'm never gonna know you now,
but i'm gonna love you anyhow."

r.i.p. elliott.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:46 AM on October 22, 2003 [1 favorite]

Terribly sad. I hope it wasn't suicide.
posted by skylar at 5:49 AM on October 22, 2003

I'm really starting to dislike the frequency with which I've had to deploy the serious period.

I've got XO, and want the rest. Never saw him live, another KCMU find. Must go see more live music. So Sad.

posted by daver at 5:54 AM on October 22, 2003

There are a couple of live Elliott Smith shows available for download via BitTorrent at Sharing the Groove at the moment: 2000-03-01 San Francisco (acoustic), 2000-05-08 Atlanta (electric).
posted by mcguirk at 6:13 AM on October 22, 2003

posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:13 AM on October 22, 2003

posted by scottq at 6:27 AM on October 22, 2003

yeah, I don't know what to say - so sad. A wonderful artist. I was lucky enough to see him play in 1997 or so.
posted by drobot at 6:37 AM on October 22, 2003


Please tell me this is not true.
This is like "Paul Is Dead" right?
posted by aki at 6:38 AM on October 22, 2003


Last I heard, he was living with his mom and taking lots of vitamins and quite happy. Up and down, I suppose. Bah.
posted by droob at 6:53 AM on October 22, 2003

If you're looking for a place to start with Elliott, I'd track down "Either/Or" -- it's really wistful and beautiful. Yet catchy. And that voice; oh.

I completely loved his music; I'm glad I saw him play a few times in '97-'98. Actually I saw him again last June at the disastrous Field Day festival -- he was playing in the parking lot of Giants Stadium, in the rain. (Well, at least those of us watching him were standing in the rain.) His voice was cracked and rough, and he forgot a Beatles song halfway through; I remember feeling a bit worried about him. But it was still worth getting rained on for.

I know this sounds corny, but for an indie star of our sarcastic and ironic era, his music was so sincere and heartfelt. Not that he didn't have a sense of humor or bite, but he totally lacked snarkiness. I predict his music will last a long time.
posted by lisa g at 7:35 AM on October 22, 2003

dude. this sucks.
posted by botono9 at 7:36 AM on October 22, 2003

How terribly sad. I don't know what else there is to say. He made such beautiful music.

posted by zygoticmynci at 7:40 AM on October 22, 2003

In an odd coincidence, "Needle In The Hay" is played during Richie Tenenbaum's attempted suicide in The Royal Tenenbaums.
posted by Dean King at 7:43 AM on October 22, 2003

I saw him at Field Day Fest as well, and ended up standing next to him during the Radiohead set. Such a cool moment, just being fans together.

posted by The Michael The at 7:49 AM on October 22, 2003

Just in case more confirmation was needed. He played a show with Wilco for Northwestern U students a year or two ago, and had the most catastrophic breakdown on stage, never finishing any songs, just stopping in the middle of them and yelling. It was miserably heartbreaking.
posted by jennanemone at 7:51 AM on October 22, 2003

I just thought about the 'Needle in the Hay' scene from the Royal Tenenbaums. It's even more shattering now. (On preview, Dean King beat me to it.)

Elliot apparently fought heroin addiction throughout his twenties; I wonder if the pain was finally too much? Rest in peace.
posted by UlfMagnet at 7:53 AM on October 22, 2003

What is it about LA and musician suicides?
posted by shoos at 7:59 AM on October 22, 2003

posted by drezdn at 8:03 AM on October 22, 2003

Pitckfork has a detailed write up about him here:

Including this observation about some pretty big warning signs on his new record he was working on:
Smith's new songs deal frankly and obsessively with drug use and suicide: a quick perusal of the Basement song titles alone yields the now-poignant "Memory Lane," "Strung Out Again," "Let's Get Lost," "Shooting Star," "A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free" and "Fond Farewell." "Give me one reason not to do it," Smith taunts in "King's Crossing," another unreleased Basement cut.
posted by malphigian at 8:04 AM on October 22, 2003

uggh. This is so sad. According to pitchfork: "Smith's new songs deal frankly and obsessively with drug use and suicide." It's tragic that with all the warning signs he couldn't get help.
posted by btwillig at 8:04 AM on October 22, 2003

This is the last of several several attempts over the years. Its terribly sad but at the same time a part of me feels relief.

"The one thing we yearn for in our living days . . . is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death" - Kerouac
posted by Satapher at 8:22 AM on October 22, 2003

I rolled out of bed yesterday morning with "Can't Make a Sound" stuck in my head... not the first time that's happened with one of Elliott Smith's songs. His talent was immeasurable.

Elliott was one of my favorite artists. XO was pretty much the soundtrack to my junior year of college.

Terrible, terrible news.
posted by cratchit at 8:22 AM on October 22, 2003

i loved his performance at his oscars; i felt like i was holding my breath through the whole song. there are heatmiser songs i completely adore, and his albums are amazing. he will be missed.
posted by armacy at 8:23 AM on October 22, 2003

this is appalling...he was so talented, but also so clearly troubled. i keep hearing that line from "Angeles" in my head: "I could make you satisfied in everything you do/ All your secret wishes could right now be coming true."

posted by serafinapekkala at 8:45 AM on October 22, 2003

This is so fucking sad. I went through a period a few years ago where I listened to pretty much nothing but Elliott for about 6 months. I own a copy of everything he ever produced. He was a genius, as well as a hell of a nice guy. I'm very glad that I finally got to see him recently in New York -- one of his last shows.

It's a shame that he could touch so many people's lives, yet feel this alone and hopeless. I wish I could have given him a fraction of what he gave me.

Well, it's all Elliott on the playlist at work today. And plenty of Johnny Walker Red tonight.

RIP, Elliott. You will be very sadly missed.
posted by Turd Ferguson at 8:51 AM on October 22, 2003

posted by subgenius at 9:18 AM on October 22, 2003

From MTV.com:

A single knife wound that appeared to be self-inflicted was evident on the body, though police detectives are investigating the incident for foul play and/or other possibilities. No other details were available at press time.

He stabbed himself *once*? How Aubrey Beardsley.
posted by interrobang at 9:30 AM on October 22, 2003

And the world is poorer one great songwriter, just when we (I) really need them. RIP.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:37 AM on October 22, 2003

interrobang, from the wire reports:
He sustained a single stab wound to the chest that appeared to be self-inflicted

The level of self-loathing needed to take yourself out in that way is just staggering.
posted by malphigian at 9:50 AM on October 22, 2003

If you've gotta go thats a pretty 'good' way to do it. Some kind of marcabre respect due. Much better than too much horse.
posted by Damienmce at 9:52 AM on October 22, 2003

Come on, everyone. Can't you admit you secretly suspected he was Paul McCartney in disguise?

I mean, the sappy songwriting is a dead giveaway. And that nose was *obviously* a prosthetic device.
posted by rocketman at 9:54 AM on October 22, 2003

Everybody's dying just to get the disease

This is the first time in my entire life that I cried over the death of someone I have never known. The thing is, listening to his albums over the last few years, in some ways I felt like I did know him. Hyperbole often accompanies singer songwriters like Smith, but as far as I am concerned he was a master at his craft. Helped me through so many hard times.

People should download the newly released single - "Pretty (Ugly Before" with the b side "A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity to be Free"
posted by Quartermass at 10:06 AM on October 22, 2003

The level of self-loathing needed to take yourself out in that way is just staggering.

And self-loathing is just the tip of the iceberg. Sadly this is what happens when you combine a drug addition with an underlying mental health problem (just like Kurt Cobain.) It leaves you vulnerable to attacks of impulsivity that you would never consider if you were in a healthier state.
posted by lilboo at 11:19 AM on October 22, 2003

From the Pitchfork review of Figure 8:

Oh, Elliott. Are things really that bad? We've been listening to this grizzled old bastard's miseries since his self-titled, indier-than-Mary Lou Lord 1995 debut on Kill Rock Stars. And what has it gotten us? Well, those of us addicted to Smith's plug-and-play hooks got it in the ass-- we've invested well over $50 on his entire catalog. Ah, but it's a value, I guess. After all, it's a pretty rare event when we find someone this effortlessly capable of crafting whole albums of instantly accessible pop.

I guess things really were that bad. This is really sad. My wife and I have some special memories built around either/or and XO.

posted by Espoo2 at 11:35 AM on October 22, 2003

posted by mzanatta at 11:42 AM on October 22, 2003

posted by scody at 12:33 PM on October 22, 2003

Goddamit. Shit.
posted by scarabic at 12:37 PM on October 22, 2003

Very sad :(

Hopefully any recordings from his new album, or at least the lyrics (if not already out there) will be available... I would hate to see his last project go to waste :(
posted by punishinglemur at 1:13 PM on October 22, 2003

Yeah I remember first getting XO and realizing, "wow, he's more than just 'the folky indy guy,' he's really one of the great ones." I saw him on the Figure 8 tour. At the encore, Grandaddy joined his band onstage for George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." It was pretty amazing, he wasn't fucking around, he really wanted to make good records. So rare these days.
posted by Bootcut at 1:55 PM on October 22, 2003

First Mary Hansen and now Elliot. Rest in Peace. We'll miss you.
posted by n9 at 2:07 PM on October 22, 2003

Does this make anyone else think of Nick Drake?
posted by n9 at 2:08 PM on October 22, 2003

posted by timothompson at 3:11 PM on October 22, 2003

Ten Reasons Elliott Smith Was Cool
posted by donovan at 4:06 PM on October 22, 2003

While we're at it, I'll ask for a recommendation. The only album I know is Figure 8, and I've always been afraid to try another. Fear of disappointment, that is. Can anyone recommend which of the others I might like?
posted by scarabic at 5:32 PM on October 22, 2003

While looking at the NME report, I remembered that I'd written a review of one of his New York shows for NME. (Self-link, obviously.) Apparently he was in pretty good spirits that night -- I started it with "Reports of Elliott Smith's moroseness have been greatly exaggerated." Though he did a cover of "Don't Fear the Reaper" -- and had Death come out and dance.

I think this was from 2000.

posted by lisa g at 5:37 PM on October 22, 2003

n9: Yes, I've always considered Smith to be a modern attempt at Drakery, although he was better in some areas, not quite as good in others. Also intriguing how both committed suicide at a young age. I wonder if, as with Drake, Smith's music will become better known after death?
posted by wackybrit at 5:49 PM on October 22, 2003

goodnight elliot.

Elliot Smith Covers 'when I paint my Masterpiece' (Live) [Real Player]

'...someday everything's gonna sound like a rhapsody...'
posted by jdaura at 5:59 PM on October 22, 2003

Smith gave a rare interview, a couple months ago, to an alternative music magazine

matteo: I'm guessing you are looking for the Under the Radar interview with Elliott Smith. You can find it here.
posted by insomnyuk at 6:19 PM on October 22, 2003

In a Magnet article a couple years ago, he said he wasn't really a tortured artist -- he just couldn't write happy songs. I guess that wasn't the whole story....
posted by Utilitaritron at 7:27 PM on October 22, 2003

While we're at it, I'll ask for a recommendation.

I'd recommend the album he recorded before Figure 8: XO. I've listened to it on and off for years and have never grow tired of it. Also, check out his cover of "Beacuse" on the American Beauty Soundtrack. Sublime
posted by btwillig at 8:27 PM on October 22, 2003

As George Harrison wrote in a song Smith also covered (and which I now can't get out of my head as it blends back and forth with "Miss Misery"):

And because of all their tears
Their eyes can't hope to see
The beauty that surrounds them
Isn't it a pity?
Isn't is a shame?

posted by scody at 8:38 PM on October 22, 2003


Without a word of a lie, every album is good. However, I will argue to the grave that "either/or" is the 'best.' Absolutely no filler on that album. My second favorite is "Roman Candle."
posted by Quartermass at 9:02 PM on October 22, 2003

posted by wells at 6:26 AM on October 23, 2003

Reading the news on mathowie's blog, I felt the same way as the day I learnt Jeff Buckley drowned. Blood flushing out of my arms, wondering, 'holy shit!'-ing.
and he stabbed himself. don't know what to think of that.
truly sucks.

posted by XiBe at 7:31 AM on October 23, 2003

this is horrible. i went to 4 of his shows. the last one was the dec 2001 performance that showed a very troubled man. this is truly aweful, he was a very unique individual.

posted by asterisk at 3:19 PM on October 23, 2003

"It seems that Elliott and his girlfriend were in a very heated argument and when she stepped outside to leave he grabbed a knife and stabbed himself in a fit of anger. She then came back in and found him near death. This info comes from someone who lives around him."
posted by yupislyr at 5:59 PM on October 23, 2003

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