November 24, 1974 – Nick Drake was born Nicholas Rodney Drake on June 19, 1948 in Rangoon Burma (Myanmar). He was a British singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, not appreciated in his lifetime, but since his death his work has grown steadily in stature, to the extent that he now ranks among the most influential English singer-songwriters of the last 50 years and his songs have been covered by many greats and in 2004, 30 years after his death, he gained his first chart hit when two singles, “Magic” and “River Man”, were released to coincide with the compilation album ‘Made to Love Magic’. Later that year the BBC aired a radio documentary about Nick, narrated by Brad Pitt.
Drake signed to Island Records when he was 20 years old and was a student at the University of Cambridge, and released his debut album, Five Leaves Left, in 1969. By 1972, he had recorded two more albums—Bryter Layter and Pink Moon. Neither sold more than 5,000 copies on initial release. Drake’s reluctance to perform live, or be interviewed, contributed to his lack of commercial success. There is no known footage of the adult Drake; he was only ever captured in still photographs and in home footage from his childhood.
Drake suffered from Major Depression or what would be diagnosed today as Adult Onset Major Depression. This was often reflected in his lyrics and as is often typical with this illness he reportedly self-medicated with marijuana regularly. On completion of his third album, 1972’s Pink Moon, he withdrew from both live performance and recording completely, retreating to his parents’ home in rural Warwickshire.
On 25 November 1974, at the age of 26, Drake died from an overdose of approximately 30 amitriptyline pills, a prescribed antidepressant. His cause of death was determined to be suicide.
His true value as a musician/songwriter did not come to the foreground until the early 1980, but has since been growing to cult like proportions.
Nick Drake died young with little commercial success in his own lifetime. Yet after years of steady rediscovery, his music has become a central touchstone for countless fans spellbound by his gentle voice, stunning composition, and perhaps surprisingly intricate guitar work.
Retrospectively, Drake’s story is usually told as a tale of consuming depression and increasing isolation. He did not offer many interviews and no known video footage of his playing exists. But based on the accounts and details we do know, he seemed obsessed with playing his guitar and exploring its depths, and this immersion brought an embrace of different tunings.
On the haunting “Cello Song” from his debut record, Five Leaves Left, for instance, Drake detuned his G-string just one half step to F#. It’s a subtle change but one that allows for the beautiful picking pattern that carries the song.
While his first two records are stocked with additional instrumentation (arguably to the songs’ detriment in some case), his third and final album, Pink Moon, is just Drake and a guitar. The album’s title track remains one of Drake’s most famous recordings and is built around a CGCFCE tuning. The tuning was also employed on Drake favorites, like “Hazey Jane I” and “Place to Be.”
Strum this tuning open, and you get a Cadd4. It’s an instant Nick Drake voicing, and simply barring and picking a few a few extra notes with your ring finger will get you into his open style.
His sister Gabrielle, a rather famous actress in Britain did an interview in the Guardian in 2014 that is equally explanatory as it is complicating the Nick Drake legacy.
Here are some of his posthumus youtube release videos: