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Nick Drake: Bryter Layter

Nick Drake
Nick Drake

Until recently, Nick Drake’s name was familiar to only the most avid record collectors. The British folk singer released three albums bet-ween 1969 and 1972-Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter, Pink Moon-that set his whispery voice against arrangements that included moody strings and the stark picking of an acoustic guitar. His lyrics proved the Summer of Love was long gone, but even in his bleaker moments Drake had a warm, soothing quality to his singing.

None of the albums generated much widespread attention at the time of their release, due in part to the singer’s reluctance to perform live. He was plagued by psychiatric problems, which got so bad at one point that he couldn’t even walk or talk. Drake died in 1974 from an overdose of antidepressants; whether it was intentional or accidental has never been resolved. Like jazz pianist Herbie Nichols, Drake left behind a small but rich songbook that has since affected many more people than he did during his 26 years.

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