This is a reworking/rewriting of something I did back on the much-missed Noise To Signal on this same anniversary a few years back. I’m reposting it here, a decade since Elliott died, as a further tribute, and with some updated music links to enjoy…
On 22nd October 2003, I was sitting in my college library browsing the internet when I saw a surprising headline on BBC News. The singer/songwriter Steven Paul “Elliott” Smith had been found dead in his apartment a day earlier, of two stab wounds to the chest, at the age of 34. At the time, I’d only really heard one or two of Elliott’s albums in full, and only owned one – 2000’s Figure 8. Despite this, it had been an integral enough influence on my taste and listening habits during my post-adolescent period, and featured certain songs that had been such a comfort during a difficult period I was going through in that latter half of 2003, that I was genuinely saddened by this death for reasons beyond the unutterably tragic circumstances in which they occurred.
It’s something of a cliché that the death of an artist is one of the best things that can happen to their record sales – and I didn’t particularly want to be part of that vulture-like culture. Nevertheless, I felt sufficiently guilty about never having fully explored his music while he was alive – and sufficiently moved by the circumstances of his life and death, the more I read about him – that I felt an obligation to further delve into the work of someone who’d already meant a surprising amount to me. What I discovered was that Elliott’s music – both as written and as performed – has the ability to reach inside and pull at the fabric of my soul like just about no-one else I’ve ever heard. As such, for getting on for nine years now, his songs have taken on greater and greater importance in my life.
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