By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Was it a surprise? Puzzle over his legacy all you want, but any interpretation would be bleak. Recent, unreleased songs included "Let’s Get Lost," "A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity To Be Free," "Strung Out Again," "Shooting Star" and "Fond Farewell." His most popular early record, Either/Or, was named after a book by the Danish philosopher SÃ¸ren Kierkegaard, in which Kierkegaard posited that the aesthete would eventually find himself in a state of despair, brought on by a recognition of the limits of an aesthetic approach to life.
It was a despair Elliott could not get past.
I met Elliott Smith once, over two days’ time, for a profile in this newspaper. It was my first cover story, my big break. We met one night at Largo, where he played joyful Ringo-style drums with Jon Brion. The next day we played croquet in the Silver Lake back yard of his then-manager, and ate pizza at an unpretentious Italian restaurant on Vermont Street.
We talked a bit about the word melancholy. He had his own definition. To him it didn’t mean depression. "That word has a huge stigma," he said. "It is essentially used to mean dark, when I think what it’s actually supposed to mean is a combination of happy and sad." Over the next few years, I’d spot him in crowds at various bars and shows in Silver Lake and Los Feliz, but he wore an intense shyness, a cloud of privacy I thought it’d be mean to interrupt.
But now I wish I’d said some things. That our cruelties are ours to pay for, not yours. That the existentialists are a bad source of romantic notions. And that while you thought you had to die for our sins and errors and fumblings, all we wanted was for you to sing about them a thousand more times.
And when I go
Don’t you follow—Alec Hanley Bemis A memorial benefit for Elliott Smith will be held at the Henry Fonda Theater on Monday, November 3; doors open at 6 p.m. Beck, Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Grandaddy, Beth Orton and others are confirmed to perform, and Steve Hanft will premiere his filmStrange Parallel, which features Elliott Smith. All proceeds benefit the Elliott Smith Foundation for Abused Children; $20; tickets available atwww.ticketweb.com. Info: (323) 464-0808.
Read other L.A. Weekly pieces about Elliott Smith:Elliott Smith, 1969-2003, by Liam Gowing, October 24-30, 2003. Anonymity, Misery, Softness: Can Elliott Smith save pop music?, by Alec Hanley Bemis, May 5–11, 2000.
Elliott Smith at the Henry Fonda Theater, February 1, 2003, Live in L.A. review by Liam Gowing, February 7–13, 2003.
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