Friday, October 24, 2003

Fond Farewell to a Friend

It is with great regret that I must introduce AHEE's premier legal scholar on such a sad occasion.

Todd Ptak, with a piece that will surely bring tears to your eyes, puts into words thoughts I've wished to express since I heard the news...

Fond Farewell to a Friend

This week, the world lost perhaps its most talented young singer-songwriter, but you won’t hear about this tragic event on the news. In fact, you might never have even heard his name before. He is Elliot Smith, and at the young age of thirty-four, he tragically took his own life on Tuesday at his Los Angeles home. You won’t hear about this on the news or the radio because this was not just another cliché suicide of a rockstar; this was the heartbreaking end of the troubled life of a man who just happened to be an amazing singer, song-writer, and guitar-player. Elliott Smith never sought fame, but thankfully, fame found him and allowed millions of casual listeners to become devoted fans through his mastery of the acoustic guitar and his soft voice.

Admittedly, Elliott Smith was not a household name and he never would be because he didn’t care about PR and he didn’t care about selling the most albums. He cared about making music the way he thought it should be made, and for that he should have become a household name because Elliott knew how to make incredible music. He wrote soul-piercing lyrics that seemed so personal and heart-felt that it made you feel like you were listening to your best friend of many years pour their heart out to you. After only a few minutes at home listening to him on your stereo, you would feel the same emotions he conveyed in song. Those emotions, as any more than a cursory listen to Elliott’s works would indicate, frequently involved not just the joys of life, but the cold realities of pain, depression, and doubt. The fact that he was able to so fundamentally affect your mood through conveying these more complex emotions through his lyrics is a testament to his strength as a songwriter. Yet, that you voluntarily wanted to return, time and again, to hear the same tales of sorrow is a testament to his talent as a musician. But Elliott had versatility too, and he had a lighter side that would come out every so often as well. A happier, more upbeat side that could take over your full being before the song was over. This was Elliott Smith’s hallmark: his ability to bring you along with full-force merely through hearing the sounds that he recorded usually on an 8-track by himself.

Elliott Smith’s notoriety as a talented musician increased markedly in 1997 when he contributed a number of songs for the soundtrack to Good Will Hunting. Director Gus Van Sant had been a fan of Elliott’s for many years and knew him when both lived in Portland, Oregon. Elliott contributed the song “Miss Misery,” which led to an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song and his recital of the song to a nationally televised audience at the Oscars in early 1998. That year, Elliott signed on with Dreamworks Records where he recorded what would become his last two albums, XO and Figure 8. Both were met with critical acclaim and helped bring Elliott’s music to a much wider audience than his previous albums on independent “indie rock” record labels. A number of Elliott’s songs have also made their way on to other movie soundtracks (including American Beauty and The Royal Tenenbaums). Smith was working on a double album, his first in three years, at the time of his death. Although we will never again be blessed with getting a chance to hear what next Elliott had in store for us, he, fortunately, left us five solo albums that are all well worth checking out. Elliott Smith’s music will not soon be forgotten. For this, we all owe Elliott a great deal of thanks.

Todd Ptak
J.D., 2004

Elliott Smith, it seems did not have many close friends on this earth. If he only knew how many people truly loved and appreciated his being and his musical accomplishment... Thank you. His depth of perception and perspicacity may not be duplicated in a hundred years.

"..gone up stream,
down the avenue...

So bad, so far.
You make me sad, shooting star...

I was once momentarily proud,
drunk on dreams...
You said you'd be for real,
but i dont belive you are.

So bad, so far.
You make me sad, shooting star

Distant and cold,
Everybody just sighs..

So bad, so far.
You make me sad, shooting star...

It won't be soon,
to say the least it's going to be hard...

So bad, so far,
your love is sad, shooting star."

"Your candle burns too bright..."

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