Folk is a genre that is subject to countless misconceptions, varying from hillbilly music to what you might hear at a renaissance fair. The truth of the matter is, many people like Folk without even knowing it. Artists like Bob Dylan and Jack Johnson (The latter very technically speaking, but I digress.) are two of your Folk front runners, and yet many people do not even know which type of music’s flag they are bearing. While I still believe ignorance is bliss when it comes to music, some of these misconceptions keep people from discovering what I believe is some of the best and most soothing music you can find. This brings me to one of Folk’s fathers, Nick Drake, an artist who was not fully recognized for his music until after his death. It was only until major artists would cite him as an influence and his music in television, that his music would rise to the popularity it has achieved today.
Nick Drake’s style of play, whether direct or indirect, is exemplified throughout much of the Folk we hear today, his guitar playing methods used throughout the Folk landscape, old and new. Nick Drake’s ability to build a melody was unrivaled at the time; even today it would be a feat to contest his affinity for them. Drake was not only known for his skills pertaining to the guitar, but also to the ability with which he would compliment his playing with other instruments. He would often add flutes and strings to his songs to play up his guitar, an amazing example of this is the song “Hazey Jane I,” a song which in my opinion is his best. It is without a doubt his most complex, and it demonstrates some grade A musicianship. With his calm and inviting voice paired with his remarkable sense of melody, Drake is good for a little music to put behind some R & R.
Drake’s songs are often embodied by nature, using its metaphorical flexibility to make for songs that could have many meanings, the intent only to be truly known by Nick himself. Drake was a heavy Marijuana smoker, and whether or not this habit acted as an artistic stimulus or an escape from his near constant state of depression will never be known. It is apparent however, that it played at least some role in his songs and lyrics. “Mary Jane” is mentioned in a handful of his songs, namely ones that give off blues vibes.
Nick Drake’s life was cut short by a constant state of depression, which was considered an illness due to the debilitating effects it had on his physical health. His death was officially recorded as caused by antidepressant drugs; whether or not it was an accidental overdose or not is not known. What is known is that his mental and emotional health during that time were very fragile, which lead to a lot of speculation. Regardless of whether or not Nick Drake took his own life due to circumstance, or if it was taken from him in attempt to better his situation, the one thing that remains true in the eyes of many Folk enthusiasts: If Nick Drake had lead a full life, the genre would not be the same as it is today. His short musical career helped shape it into what it has become, and more Nick Drake would only mean more and better Folk for the masses.