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Nicholas Rodney Drake
June 19th 1948 - November 25th 1974

Younger Years
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Nick Drake was born at the Dufferin Hospital in Rangoon, Burma. The first two years of Nick's life, Rangoon would be home for the family. He and his sister had a pretty happy early childhood there. In 1950, the family left Rangoon and moved to Bombay, when his father Rodney was made a Company Manager there. In 1951 the family went back to England and settled in the big, but cosy family house 'Far Leys' in a town called Tanworth-In-Arden.

All-in-all, they seemed a normal English household, except for the dash of Burma they took along in their Burmese maid, who would be a nanny to Gabrielle and Nick. But it was a very musical family and both children inherited a love of music of all sorts. Molly played the piano and sang. She once composed a whole suite of children's songs for Gabrielle and Nick. During the 1930's, she also did some songwriting. But Gabrielle remembers that her father also composed, once writing an entire comic operetta. So music was no stranger to Nick from the very early beginning on.

Nick went to school at Hurst House in Henley-In-Arden. Then on to Sandhurst in Berkshire. In 1962, at the age of 13, Nick went to boarding school at Marlbourough College. He was a fine student and a good athlete. He played rugby there too, on the wing and he was a very quick 100-yarder. On occasions, he could also be found on the hockeyfield, and as is remembered, played centre half in the team. Other than sports, of course, there was music. He learned to play several instruments; piano, saxophone, clarinet and of course, the guitar. Nick played in bands too, "The Perfumed Gardeners" being one of them.

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In 1965 Nick and some friends went on a 3 week trip through europe. Hitchhiking, they ended up in France where Nick fell in love with the country. Many follow-up trips would follow. In October 1967, he went to Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge. Nick never performed much before the bigger audiences. But it was in London that Nick was discovered by Fairport Convention's bassist Ashley Hutchings, while performing at the Roundhouse. He then alerted his manager, Joe Boyd, who then contacted Nick. Nick submitted a demo-tape, in which Boyd found something special. "I just thought it was great, really an unique talent." Things started rolling and Nick was able to start recording his own songs.
The Musician

Nick, shy as he may have seemed, did know exactly what he wanted for his music. He dismissed the original arrangements for 'Five Leaves Left'. He wanted his friend Robert Kirby to do the arrangements. Although Robert was yet quite unexperienced and Joe had his doubts at first, it turned out to be most perfect. And so the first album came to be.

Nick never completed his degree. He dropped out of school in 1969, just twelve months ahead of Finals to devote himself completely to his music. He then moved down to London and took a room in a house on Haverstock Hill in Hampstead. There he wrote the songs for Bryter Layter. The albums though, didn't really sell very well. And the very few performances he did give during that time, due to lack of respect and interest of the audience seemed to have cured him from going on stage forever.

It was the lack of succes that would have a great impact on Nick, as well as on the so-called depression later on. Early in 1971, Nick moved back to Far Leys, where he would spend most of the last years of his life. When Joe Boyd, who had become a good friend of Nick's, left the UK in 1971 and quit Island Records, Nick started to feel increasingly isolated. After some persuasion from family and friends Nick went to see a psychiatrist. It was then he was prescribed the anti-depressants. Nick tried to stop the medication on several accounts, trying to get through this on his own, but fell back even deeper each time and started using them again.


Friends at that time recall him sitting alone in a chair, not moving, just staring, completely silent. He could nolonger communicate. Chris Blackwell at Island records offered Nick to stay over at his villa in Spain to recuperate. It seemed to have had a good impact on Nick, because when he got back, he contacted the engineer John Wood and said he wanted to make a record. After the conclusion of the second night's recording, John asked how he wanted the 11 songs arranged. Nick responded; "I don't want it arranged. No frills." It would be a very short album, even though 11 songs. John Wood had his reservations, but afterwards admitted: "I wouldn't want any more. If something's that intense, it can't be measured in minutes."

Nick handed the tape off at island Records where it was received with surprise. But the depression deepened afterwards. Pink Moon didn't sell very well either. He withdrew further and further. He wondered why he was so deep down, while everybody kept telling him how talented he was. He felt he had failed though. He did realise something was wrong and he checked himself into a psychiatric hospital, but emerged unchanged. He had his ups and downs. His mother remembers talking to his friends later on; "They all said he just went away into a world where none of us could reach him."

Yet Nick found the strength and inspiration to record four more songs in February 1974. But they were the last he ever recorded. His mother remembers: "Those last four songs were supposed to be the beginning of another album. But the idea of having to do all the business of another record and all the contracts, I think it just was more at that stage than Nick could cope with. But I don't know. You see, towards the end of his life, he was so very much better."

Midway through 1974, his parents noticed a brighter aspect to their son. He again went to France to meet up with Fran├žoise Hardy, who had already before shown interest in his work, to maybe write some songs for her. But after a while, Nick was home again at Far Leys.

Nick experiened trouble with sleeping. At home, on several nights he would go downstairs, get a little something to eat and his mother would often wake up by the sound and join him. They'd have a little chat and then would be off to bed again. In the early morning of November 25, 1974, this was the case again. Nick couldn't sleep, went downstairs and had a bowl of cornflakes. However, on this occasion, his mother did not wake up. Even though he was doing a bit better, the family had put away sleepingpills and strong medications, just to be sure. The anti-depressants were not regarded as 'dangerous' in any way. Nick took them to feel better and to calm down. That night unable to sleep again he took some extra of one of the anti-depressants, that he often used to help him sleep; Tryptizol. Nobody ever warned the family that they were dangerous and one would better not go over the prescribed dose. Nobody warned them that this particular anti-depressant and the other two he was taking could cause heart-disturbances. Whether Nick had any idea or not of this fact remains unknown. His parents think, that like them, he didn't know.

When Nick came up into his room again, he passed out over the bed and his heart gave in. Laying across the bed, with Bach's Brandenburger Concertos on his turn-table, he passed away. The next morning, his mother, who'd often let him sleep in, thought it was time for him to get up and went to wake him. "The first thing I saw was his long, long legs..."

 It is not precisely known how many extra pills he took. Whether they were quite a lot or just a few. Due to the strongness of the pills, the effect might have been the same. Because his father Rodney died of a heart-attack, even though it was at an old age, one could wonder whether this problem was already in the family, thereby increasing the effect of the pills. The coroner's verdict was suicide, a ruling which the family contested. Many doubt. Some think it was indeed suicide, others think it was unintended, again others just don't know. His sister Gabrielle said: "I personally prefer to think Nick comitted suicide, in the sense that I'd rather he died because he wanted to end it than it to be the result of a tragic mistake. That would seem to me to be terrible: for it to be a plea for help that nobody hears."

At the funeral it seemed many of the people and friends of Nick didn't know each other. Nick had kept his life and the people he knew well-ordered and apart, thus creating several bits of lifes. He was cremated and then his remains were buried at the Tanworth-In-Arden's church Mary Magdalena's graveyard, under a great, beautiful oak; probably one of the most beautiful places there. The family had a line from one of his lyrics, very suitable, engraved on the back of the stone: "And now we rise and we are everywhere."

By now, his father and mother have joined him, their names have been added to the stone. Gradually Nick's fame and recognition for his music started growing as the years passed by. Nicholas Rodney Drake passed away on November 25, 1974, but a legend was born. Romantized and well-appreciated by now., speculations run wildly on the meaning of his lyrics, his life and of course, his death. Still nobody will ever know what truly happened that night. All we can do, is to appreciate his music and love it as we listen to it.