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The 5th anniversary of Elliott Smith's death

Today marks one especially awful anniversary in L.A. music history: Five years ago, beloved singer-songwriter Elliott Smith died of multiple knife wounds to the heart in his Echo Park apartment. The singer had made L.A. his adopted home, where he built his recording studio and worked to finish the tracks that became the posthumous LP, "From a Basement on the Hill." A collection of b-sides and rarities, "New Moon" came out last year on Kill Rock Stars.

It's difficult to capture how his death was such a shock, horror and blow to the creative communities of Los Angeles and around the world, compounded by the fact that the autopsy report couldn't positively confirm his death as a suicide. A good number of his fans can probably tell you exactly what they were doing when they got the news (I was in my sophomore dorm room in college), and his relentlessly inventive and virtuosic singing, songwriting and musicianship haven't seen a peer in L.A. since. His songs were some of the first that really got marrow-deep in changing the ways I thought music could move me, and the way he doubled-tracked all his whisper-soft lead vocals on those early records still gives me chills.

There's no better day than today to make a trip to the Sunset Wall and leave a candle or bottle of Christian Brothers, and we'll leave you with a few videos of the man in happier moments. Oregon Public Radio also has a great, long retrospective on Smith at its site. Please share your fondest Smith memories in the comments.

-- August Brown

Smith at the Oscars performing "Miss Misery."

Performing "Angeles," from Jem Cohen's film "Lucky 3."

Performing "Say Yes," in an "I heart metal" shirt.

Comments () | Archives (5)

I first saw Elliott at an in-store at Other Music in the late 1990s. He was nervous, his hands were shaking, but he was brilliant. I was hooked on his music, and I never met a more genuine (yet troubled) soul. There will never be another quite like him. His music got me through somevery rough times, as I'm sure it did for thousands.

"I'm a junkyard full of false starts
And I don't need your permission
To bury my love
Under this bare light bulb
The moon is a sickle cell
It'll kill you in time"

You are missed, Elliott.

I remember it was late at night, I signed on to AIM to talk to a friend. I was about to tell him I was going to get tickets to All Tomorrow's Party, which Smith was scheduled to perform at. He then informed me of the breaking news. I called KXLU, and the dj there confirmed, and soon it was on Rolling Stone.

A real shame. I did get to see Elliott perform at the Wiltern, i can still remember him and his band cover Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper." Truly prophetic.

i remember driving home in the wee hours from vegas, finally coming back through LA, catching back up w/KCRW, (B.I. before Ipod)...Flying over the mostly empty freeways, and out of the radio mist, hearing 'rose parade' for the first time...i hit the first offramp i could & pulled over until it finished, then i turned off the radio & clung to that song, replaying it in my head for the next hundred miles to home...
he was a rare spirit...

My friend Felice was Ellliott's publicist during his rise to fame, and I met him a few times through her. Once I moderated a conversation between him and Mary Lou Lord, for SPIN, I think. I remember him as one of those darkly gentle guys who couldn't quite push himself forward enough to be comfortable in the world -- except in his music.

My favorite moment seeing him live was at NYU, around the time of the Oscar nomination. He played to a hushed room (of course) and mid-set he broke into Bob Dylan's "Don't Look Twice, It's Alright." For that short while, he was the voice of his generation. But of course He wasn't one to take on such roles -- which is why his favorite 1960s icon was probably George Harrison, the Quiet One.

-- Ann Powers, Los Angeles Times

we're lucky to have songs by elliott we can listen to whenever we want and feel however we want when we listen to them. thanks for the reminder august.


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