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you couldn't keep the great unknown from making you mad

by mg at 03:44 PM on October 23, 2003

As might be expected, I’m not one to get overly emotional when hearing about the broken marriages, overdoses, and other assorted mishaps of the Hollywood elite. But today I heard about the apparent suicide of one of my favorite singer/songwriters, and it’s hit me in quite an unusual way.

Elliott Smith, who you will most likely remember for the Oscar Award nominated soundtrack to Good Will Hunting, was found in his apartment yesterday with a knife wound to the chest. While there is no reason to expect otherwise, besides a self-inflicted knife-wound to the chest being quite an unusual way to commit suicide, I’m still holding out hope that there is some other explanation for his death.

I’m a huge fan of Smith’s, which certainly explains why I feel anything at all, but, as is probably not at all uncommon in the case of suicides, what I feel most is disappointment. It was only a few days ago that it’d dawned on me he hadn’t put out an album in a few years, and one should be due. He was, in fact, working on a new album, slated for a spring release, after suffering through several years of writer’s block.

I’m frustrated at the thought of never hearing another new Elliott Smith album (though, if Tupac is any indication, Smith will likely posthumously release more material dead than he did alive). But, more than anything, I’m disappointed that someone, having reached a level of success far beyond their expectations (and, in Smith’s case, beyond his desire), would find something to be distraught enough about to literally fall on his sword. I can imagine why someone like me, or the dumbass who lept Niagra Falls (and survived), would think about ending it all, but that someone who’d achieved something with their life to think about Hari Kari (and not just how upset he’d be about the Cubs own meltdown), it is just shocking.

Which is why, I think, Kurt Cobain’s death has always held such a mystique. Kurt had the world. After just a two full length albums, he had already been crowned the voice of his generation. Sure, that is a tough title to wear, but, damn, why wouldn’t you just pull a J.D. Salinger and disappear forever rather than stick a gun in your mouth? Of course, he had to live with Courtney Love Hole’s chatter constantly in his ear, handing over half your cash in a divorce settlement seems like a much more reasonable alternative than blowing the top of your skull off.

And though I can remember exactly where I was when I learned that Kurt Cobain was dead, it was more because of the events going on in my life at the moment, rather than any effect his death had on me. In fact, I was much more saddened to hear about Courtney Love Hole’s recent slide “back” into drugs, and the fact that her daughter, Frances Bean, has been removed from her custody and placed with Kurt’s parents, who did such a bang-up job with Kurt that we should all be giving them our kids, will still make for a much more stable home life than with a nude and ranting Courtney. Wow, that’s a long sentence. Anyway.

As far as musical deaths go, I’m still saddened that John Lennon isn’t alive, but who isn’t (besides Yoko). As for contemporaries, I was most effected by the deaths of Shannon Hoon (from Blind Melon) and Brad Nowel (of Sublime). Both died (or should I say, both overdosed) only shortly after the deaths of their children, which is about the saddest thing I can think of. In Brad’s case, he died only weeks before the release of the album that would have made him a star.

As for Smith, I can’t say his apparent suicide is much of a surprise. His music was always dark (if you aren’t familiar with the songs from Good Will Hunting, you might remember the song Needle in the Hay as the song playing during the Luke Wilson suicide montage in the The Royal Tannenbaum, and no other piece of music could have been as appropriate in that situation).

What all these suicide/overdose/meltdown have in common is the true depth of talent of those who died. Isn’t it strange that it’s always of such tremendous ability to create, not just perform, people like Hendrix, Nick Drake, Kobain, Brian Wilson, and Janis Joplin, who burn out young, rather than no talents like Celine Dion, whichever teenage blond virgin/slut is the flavor of the week, or those kids from Menudo?

comments (19)

Smith's official record company site is either hammered with traffic or been taken down (probably the latter), but here is a back door to some audio, if you care to take a listen.

by mg at October 23, 2003 4:02 PM

I probably should have actually included the link.

by mg at October 23, 2003 4:03 PM

i think it takes an artist mortgaging 80 years of life to be lived, and spending it fast & hard early, to get the really good work out. even the ones that lived on in years usually don't make great work as they get older, because they burned it all up in their youth.

some people don't want to live to see the well dry up. and some can't take the pain of the burning.

i'm sad smith's gone too. such a beautiful songwriter.

by lajoie at October 23, 2003 4:04 PM

I'm a big Smith fan also. When I heard he was gone I did something I rarely do. I said a little prayer for him. Hopefully whatever pain that drove him to this act is gone for him now.

I have also pondered why fate decides to take the brillient musicians away from us. I think Lajoie has a point. I also believe they live much faster or have pain that we could never understand which allows them to write the beautiful and sometimes tragic music they do. I also agree with you MG. Why not take anyone from NSYNC, Fred Durst's abortion of a band, or Britney. Wait, don't take Britney. She's too damn nice to look at as long as you don't have to listen.

RIP Elliott

by Ezy at October 23, 2003 4:14 PM

I agree with all of you. The early death rate among the truly talented as opposed to cookie cutter music industry creations is way too high. We may have overlooked the incomparable Lowell George of Little Feat. A good friend of mine spent time with him the night he died. The guilt can get to you, I suppose.

by anna at October 23, 2003 6:04 PM

This is the first time I actually cried when I heard that an artist had died. I was at my desk at work, websur--er, checking the news, yesterday afternoon and I had to take a moment when I saw the headline.

That song Angeles was one of Those Songs, those songs that change the way you feel forever, that lock a piece of you forever in the moment you are in right then. God. I wish I could understand how someone could feel such powerful, profound sadness. I wish and I don't wish. It is truly a strange thing, how often such tragedy is associated with artistic genius (and sad that it's not associated with people like that fucking "god-gave-me-my-talent-so-it's-okay-to-be-a-flaming-bitch" face from Destiny's Child).

by Linz at October 23, 2003 8:33 PM

I know this might sound a little stupid, but I was pretty shaken up when I heard that Dan Lauria died (he was "Jack Arnold" from The Wonders years). The Wonder Years was one of my favorite shows ever, I guess because the character Kevin Arnold was young the same time that I was young.

Also, I guess it was pretty sad that Tico Torres (drummer from Bon Jovi) croaked. He was pretty young.

by Eviltom at October 23, 2003 10:02 PM

You know, I was pretty upset when I heard the Wonder Years dad had died too. Just to illustrate the weirdness between fact/fiction, I think I was much more sad when, during the last episode of the show, they mentioned how the dad would die only a couple years later. I didn't know Dan Lauria, but I felt like I knew the screaming maniac who was Kevin Arnold's dad.

by mg at October 24, 2003 9:59 AM

I am reminded of one of my favorite songs about suicide. It's from the "Dogs in Space" soudntrack, a classic australian punk record akin to the "Repo Man" soundtrack over here. I can't remember who sang it, but there were two versions, one sung by a woman, one by a dude (maybe Nick Cave).


I've been contemplating suicide,
but it really doesn't suit my style,
so I think I'll just act bored instead
who can take the blood I would've shed?

She makes me feel so ugly
my heart is really on it's knees
but I keep a poker face so well
that even mother couldn't tell

But my baby's so vain
she is almost a mirror
and the sound of her name
sends a permanent shiver down my SPINE

I keep her photograph against my heart
for in my life she plays a starring part
all alcohol and cigarettes
there is no room for cheap regrets

But my baby's so vain
she is almost a mirror
and the sound of her name
sends a permanent shiver down my SPINE

She makes me feel so ugly
my heart is really on it's knees
but I keep a poker face so well
that even mother couldn't tell

But my baby's so vain
she is almost a mirror
and the sound of her name
sends a perennial shiver down my

by eff at October 24, 2003 10:35 AM

I always had a thing for Winnie. She had that still wholesome/vulnerable but on the brink of misadventure thing going on. And cute! I hated it when she took up with that older, full-sized high school boy.

by anna at October 24, 2003 5:54 PM

Who, growing up along with Kevin Arnold, wasn't also in love with Winnie Cooper?

On a somewhat related note, I was trying to look up Danica McKellar (the gal who played Winnie) website, since I remember she had something to do with math. I couldn't find her actual website, but did find some articles, which revealed the absolutely shocking piece of news that Mayim Bialik, star of Blossom, is working toward her Ph.D. in neuroscience. I can think of few things more surreal than that.

by mg at October 24, 2003 7:21 PM

Crazy! Good for Mayim, though. Both she and Danica were attending UCLA when I was there. People that had classes with them universally said that they were very nice. The guy that played Steve Urkel though, was a jerk.

by jean at October 24, 2003 8:25 PM

There is a rumor that the Olsen twins attend Columbia. Does anyone know for sure if this is true or false?

I, like MG, was also doing some web searching and dug up some pretty shocking tidbits myself. Check this out:

1. That "Whatchootalkinabout Willis?" kid from Diffrent Strokes, Gary Coleman, ran for Governor of California!

2. Danny Pintauro (the kid from Who's The Boss) likes to take it up the ass.

3. That fat dude Rerun (from What's Happening) is 52!

4. Justine Bateman (from Family Ties) cant get no satisfaction.

5. Corky (from Life Goes On) drools like a motherfucker.

by Eviltom at October 24, 2003 9:15 PM

Check out this pic of Winne Cooper and Becky Slater all grown up!

by Eviltom at October 24, 2003 9:29 PM

While I was looking for the Danica/Winnie math website, I also learned that the she and the girl who played Becky Slater (Kevin Arnold's girlfriend turned evil ex-girlfriend) were sisters.

by mg at October 25, 2003 7:28 AM

Bah! You guys and your links. Tom has ruined my Winnie memory and I can't get rid of that Courtney Love image on my screen.

by anna at October 25, 2003 8:15 AM

Ruined your memory of Winnie? Waaaitaminute here... how old are you??? See, I'm 27. I'm allowed to have dirty memories of a 12 year old Winnie Cooper because I was around that age at the time. And you? Dude, you're a pervert aren't you?

MG- Everyone KNOWS they're sisters! Cmon dude. Get with the program. Also, I found Danica's official web site. It was linked off of her official "Speechless" movie site. Altho her official site was down when I tried to hit it.

by Eviltom at October 25, 2003 9:52 AM

44 or thereabouts. And I hated that annoying voiceover too.

by anna at October 26, 2003 7:46 AM

eff that song is by the screaming jets and I have been looking for its name for ages now so thank you.

by Michael at February 1, 2006 3:55 AM

comments are closed