YESTERDAY would have been the 40st birthday of elliott smith, perhaps the finest songwriter of my generation, and a musician who killed himself six years ago. my wife -- a longtime music journalist who considers him the deepest artist she's ever interviewed -- and i remember that dark day well.
smith, of course, came up through the portland band heatmiser, and released some powerful and very spare solo records up there before moving to LA... he came to the southland a few years after i did, and i was lucky enough to see him perform several times, as well as to sit next to him at the bar at the troubadour, where he was nursing a guinness and clearly did not want to be disturbed. (i also recall, maybe a year before he died, smith waiting in line behind me in line at amoeba music, with a basket full of vinyl. his girlfriend had to lead him to the register like he was an overmedicated old man.)
HERE is my piece from 2004, in which i interviewed his girlfriend, producer, biographer, and musical friends, and look back at his life and then-controversial death. as sad as i still am to have him gone, he's one of the people who reminds me of how emotionally direct and inventive the music of the indie-rock movement can be. also: as influenced as he was by indie and by the british invasion (especially george harrison), smith was, musically, every bit his own man.