Revisiting Legend Nick Drake’s Pink Moon

More than a few names, whether it be musicians, painters or any other creators, pass by unnoticed during their stage of life only to be ferreted out down the road. Nick Drake, the English singer-songwriter, was one of those gems whose noteworthy impact on the musical community was taken notice of years after his death. Thanks to his songs crossing generations, the singer’s style of music and guitar playing along with his overall compositional approach have been a substance of discourse for a plethora of aspiring singer-songwriters. Nick, to this day, stands out a mile in the British folk-rock scene.

The official album art for Pink Moon ( Source: Nickdrave.com )

Drake, who wrote songs on mortality, depression and melancholia, suffered a near to the ground popularity despite his songs in no manner being ordinary, mostly due to his lack of exuberance for live performance. His mellow acoustic guitar sounds intertwined with warm sounding strings and orchestral arrangements fit right with the aching personality of his songs. Around the time Nick released Pink Moon, his final album, he was gripped hard by his depression, and given that his musical career had been out of luck for most of his short-span career, the songwriter had barely any energy to spare for writing new songs.

Nick died on November 25, 1974, in his parents’ house from an overdose of antidepressant medication, which many people have thought of to be suicide, whilst his family and friends disagree with the claim.

Creating any form of art is an arduous task. Not to mention all the work that goes into not only writing but also the production part, the process leaves musicians burned out. But for all that, he still managed to put out the album, which eminent musicians and listeners consider to be a downright masterwork.

Let’s take a deeper look at this fantastic work of art.

Pink moon

The album starts with the song Pink Moon featuring cover art by Michael Trevithick, a friend of Drake’s sister Gabrielle. The singer’s Bassy warm sounding vocals combined with dead sounding guitars work pretty well with the mellow theme of the song, something that the songwriter might have figured out and was comfortable with through his vision for the songs in the album. Even with his crippling depression, Nick mind-blowingly sings the song with a lot of vitality and impact, giving off little to no impression of being lacklustre. 

The simplicity of arrangements and minimalistic instrument choices for the song make for a raw yet honest and captivating modulation of Nick’s creative vision. By availing himself of only a guitar, a piano, that only appears like a passing train, and his marvellous voice, the authenticity of his performance results in a mellifluous work of genius. 

Of all his songs, Pink Moon sparked a flame for Nick’s popularity after being picked up by a  Volkswagen commercial in 1999, 25 years after his death. 

Place To Be

Moving on to Place to be, the atmosphere that the singer lays on Pink Moon soldiers on with this song as well. The proficiency of situating an ambience throughout the tracks is one of the distinguishing attributes of a great sounding album. Listening to albums like these, that prolong the way you feel, is a vibe to get you infatuated with. By the same token, consistently in production for all songs on an album is of foremost significance. For the better, the song, along with other ones on the album, inherit in them both these characteristics. 

Owing to the fact that Drake performs with just his guitar and his voice in this song, the guitar arrangement finds a sweet balance between melody and percussive strumming, which stuck together give a teeter-totter feel to the guitar. 

The suspending notes in his singing and the sense of time for when to release the vocal phrase might remain low-keyed. However, this simple detail is suggestive of his refinement in composing. 

Place to be gives a painful impression of Drake’s emotional agony traceable to his prevailing depression. The song paints a picture of a cheerful and unburdened state of mind in earlier days of childhood consequently broken into smithereens as a consequence of discontentment and the need for a place to settle down emotionally after growing up. 

Things Behind The Sun

Nick had an amazing adroitness for putting together imaginative chord progressions with an elegantly flowing melody. The writer’s capability of using the guitars as a primary rhythmic instrument to drive the entire song without the aid of any other rhythmic instrument is influential to masses of emerging guitar players. With an extraordinary sense of melody and harmony, the song starts with the verses being slightly darker and gloomy contrasting with a rising and falling guitar arrangement accompanied by a brightened vocal phrasing in the chorus section. 

Much like the above song, Nick’s loneliness makes its way into his writing in a vague and metaphorical manner. The singer ambiguously contextualizes the agony of not having anyone to relate to and the vanity in seeking solace in other people. Granted the fact that the lyrical interpretation is speculative, the title for the song is clear as day. With light comes darkness, and one cannot exist without the other. The pain behind the smile seems to be unshakable and the one who comes across it also burdens themselves with knowing it. 

Even if Drake departed this life at the young age of 26, what he left behind in the form of his music and legacy is priceless and his songs will continue to inspire musicians and educators equally to take away something from his work for their own creative endeavours. 

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Sandesh K.C
A musician in the making specializing in songwriting and musical composition. Recent Engineering graduate and music writer trying best to keep the spark for my passion alive.
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