Stuart Ryan introduces a player whose song in the film Good Will Hunting gave him fame, but whose depression led to him taking his own life.
Stuart Ryan introduces the tragically starred American singer-songwriter, Elliott Smith.
the world took notice of smith when his song miss misery was selected for use in the film good will hunting
Agifted but troubled singer-songwriter, Elliott Smith stunned the music world with his violent suicide on October 21, 2003. Born in Nebraska in 1969, Smith spent most of his childhood years in Texas and later re-located to Portland in his early teens. A difficult relationship with his stepfather saw him escape into music as a child and he began to play guitar when he was 10, a year after taking up the piano. He started his first bands while as a student at college in the early 1990s and was gigging and releasing music by 1992. Although he recorded albums with his group Heatmiser it was his first solo record, 1994’s Roman Candle, that brought him far greater recognition and also saw the end of his band. A series of solo albums followed with his distinctive acoustic guitar parts accompanying his equally distinctive wistful, multitracked vocals. The world took notice of Smith in 1996 when his track Miss Misery was selected to appear on the soundtrack to the film Good Will Hunting – the success of the film and an Academy Award nomination for the track itself catapulted him to reluctant stardom. Indeed he was asked to perform the track at The Oscars ceremony, refused and only capitulated when told that if he didn’t perform the song somebody else would. Inevitably a major label deal followed, with Dreamworks, in 1998 but was also accompanied by a descent into depression and his first suicide attempt. Drug addiction marred work on subsequent albums though by 2003 it looked like Smith had reformed and was again appearing live. Tragically, however, he could seemingly could not escape his demons and committed suicide in the winter of 2003. Smith’s acoustic guitar style is highly idiosyncratic and often challenging. He worked with many altered tunings and his chordal style will make some demands upon your fretting hands. He definitely had his own sound on the instrument though this was also formed by his influences who ranged from The Beatles and Bob Dylan through the classic rock of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC to country, Elvis Presley and even German rockers The Scorpions. Interestingly, his main approach to songwriting was very much focused on chord changes and this, combined with his use of sometimes complex altered tunings, allowed him to create a distinctive and individual approach to the instrument.
Elliott Smith: another unusual talent tragically gone too soon