liz asked me if I found Elliot Smith’s music hard to want to listen to since hearing of his suicide.
That’s an intriguing question. Knowing about his suicide definitely changes how one interprets lyrics like those from his final album, “From a Basement on a Hill.”
“I can’t prepare for death anymore than I already have”
“This is not my life, it’s just a fond farewell to a friend”
“Give me one good reason not to do it, or else I’ll do it”
It becomes clear how Elliot Smith was seriously struggling. His fame placed him upon a hill but he couldn’t escape the deep basement of his own depression. It’s terribly pitiful and ironic how, despite all of his success, his own emotional trauma turned life into some kind of deep suffering. It’s such a sad story, but in difficult times I feel like I can relate–of course not to suicide, but perhaps to similar feelings of loneliness, sadness, and inadequacy. I guess his suicide only provides greater evidence for how truly real his feelings were, and that his music was not an invention, but a poignant expression of his deepest feelings.
I think it is important to truthfully express how we feel where people care and will listen, to allow others the chance to reach out and help us. I wonder “Where were Elliot’s closest friends when he really needed them?” If his feelings were anger, malice, or hatred, I think I would not want to hear it, but the feelings his music communicates to me do not feel evil or vulgar. Instead, his story reminds me how miserable life can be when we lose our way and feel alone. It makes me want to reach out to those who may have lost direction and gives me a sense that there are probably many of those people around me at any time. It makes me want to help them before it is too late, like with Elliot. It adds meaning to the little encouragements that I try to give to others. I like to believe that somewhere in some way that I’m perhaps not aware of, I’ve made a difference in someone’s life which perhaps helped them avoid some tragedy, small or great.
I can’t find the quote but somewhere I heard:
“Treat people as if they were in desperate need, and you won’t often be wrong.”
I guess the story of Elliot Smith is, for me, a reminder of that. Hearing his music reminds of the need in the world.