This week marks the 11-year anniversary of the death of American singer-songwriter and musician Elliot Smith. Having endured a difficult childhood filled with unspeakable traumas, Smith suffered from drug dependence, alcoholism and depression, all topics and themes that influenced his music. Despite such a rough experience, the artist found a way to contribute to the world of music and live a successful career that spanned twelve years.
In 1991 he started a band called Heatmiser with a college friend, but when that didn’t work out, he continued on his own, recording songs on borrowed four-tracks and guitars. In 1994, his girlfriend at the time convinced Smith to send in those recordings to Cavity Search Records and the rest is history. At a time when grunge music was the height of popularity and bands like Nirvana ruled the rock scene, Smith made acoustic cool again.
Over the years, Smith has gained much admiration from his peers and continues even now to inspire artists. Fellow American singer-songwriter Beck once said, “The good thing about his songs is they’re so well made, they’re so crafted and meticulous, they can weather even the most feeble rendition.” Long time friend Ben Folds wrote the song “Late” as a tribute to Smith, after the singer’s passing.
Rock and indie musicians aren’t the only ones who have been impacted by his music, though. Pop stars like Madonna and Metric have shown love for the late artist by covering one of his most famous tracks, “Between the Bars,” at their own shows.
On October 21, 2003, at the age of 34, Smith was found dead from two stab wounds to the chest, but a report never uncovered if it was self-inflicted or not. His last album, From a Basement on the Hill, was completed and released posthumously.
It’s been 11 years since this legendary artist left the world behind, but it’s clear to see he’ll continue to inspire and influence it for generations to come.