Pop & Hiss

The L.A. Times music blog

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The 5th anniversary of Elliott Smith's death

October 21, 2008 |  4:37 pm

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.