Elliott, Man, You Played A Fine Guitar And Some Dirty Basketball … The Songs You Wrote Got Me Through A Lot, Just Want To Tell You That

On this day 10 years ago, Elliott Smith took his own life at the age of 34.

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This isn’t my absolute favorite picture of him, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.  I’ve just always loved this one for some reason.  Image courtesy of http://www.pagepulp.com.

It’s weird to think of this making me feel sad because I never knew him.  He wasn’t a close friend, family member, or even acquaintance.  At the same time, you don’t have to actually know someone for them to impact your life in some significant way.  Many musicians and authors have inspired and impacted me over the years, but none have done so in the way Elliott Smith has.

Sometimes it’s difficult to articulate just how important it’s been for me to know that there are other people out there who have struggled with depression the way I have … Who have felt many of the same things I have.  I know depression isn’t a unique problem to have … According to the NIH website (which, to me, is a reputable source), “major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States.”  This isn’t surprising to me at all.

The thing is, though, I haven’t known that many people in real life who have dealt with depression.  I know a few, and I would be willing to bet that there are some others I know that just aren’t comfortable talking about it.  I mean, it’s not like I go up to people and say, “Did you know I’ve been suffering from depression for years?  I was even seeing a therapist at the age of 7 because I threatened suicide on multiple occasions (and meant what I said about not caring if I lived or died).”  While that’s the sad (and somewhat embarrassing) truth, it’s not something I like to share with a lot of people.  It’s actually a bit scary to type it all up here!  However, the people I know in real life who read this blog already know this about me (and much more than I’m currently willing to share).  And anyone else reading this?  Well, I just hope that if they’re also dealing with depression, they’ll feel as though someone else out there might actually understand what they’re going through.

And that’s what Elliott Smith’s music did for me.  I believe I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t start listening to him until my senior year of college.  He had already passed away by then, but I remember wishing he was still around because I’d never heard anyone describe anger, hopelessness, love, sadness, loneliness, etc. the way he did.  Some days it was such a relief to be able to put in my earbuds, start an Elliott Smith album on my iPod, and just listen.  I felt relieved that I could escape from the issues I was dealing with for a while and relieved that someone else could so beautifully describe what I was feeling in that very moment.

It was also inspiring … Listening to Elliott’s music made me want to be a better writer.  I don’t know that I am.  I don’t think I’m a terrible writer, but I definitely have my fair share of half finished projects and/or stuff I don’t think is good enough to share with, well, anyone.  But I also have some poetry that I’m really proud of.  I have some story ideas that I think could be really great as long as I force myself to just sit down and hammer out the details.  And I have this blog.  Yes, writing for a blog is a little different … But I still have to really think about what I want to say and how I want to say it.  Sometimes I write really goofy, random posts … And sometimes, like today, I try to write things that are a little more serious and (hopefully) meaningful.

In honor of Elliott Smith and his affect on me (and my writing), today’s Music Monday post is actually more personal.  I’m sure that’s already obvious, but I’m going to be sharing just a bit more … A poem (or, like the other poems I’ve shared on this blog, a poem written more like song lyrics) I wrote over 7 years ago about Elliott Smith.  I’ve actually written a couple of pieces specifically about him (and several more that were directly inspired by his music), but this one is probably my favorite (though I’m aware that the title needs some work since it’s lame).

“Dedicated To My Hero: For Elliott Smith”

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This picture gets me every time.  I love it.  Image courtesy of consequenceofsound.net.

Written on 06-08-2006

If you look closely, you can see that twinge of grief

Lying just below the surface of a heavenly smile

Twinkling eyes hold the secrets beneath

As you pretend it doesn’t hurt for a while

Standing in the spotlight, you become a star

Strumming out familiar chords on your guitar

Sharing the words formed in your lovely heart

Unable to see how amazing you are

And now you’ll never know how much you meant …

Listen to the words, and you can somehow feel the pain

Soaking each lyrical breath with sincere agony

Is it enough to genuinely feel the same?

I believe that you may have saved me

Standing in the spotlight, you become a star

Strumming out familiar chords on your guitar

Sharing the words formed in your lovely heart

Unable to see how amazing you are

And now you’ll never know how much you meant …

A tortured mind with a poetic soul

Somehow unable to ever feel whole

Barely alive in your heart, it came down to this

I promise that you will always be missed

Standing in the spotlight, you become a star

Strumming out familiar chords on your guitar

Sharing the words formed in your lovely heart

Unable to see how amazing you are

And now you’ll never know how much you meant …

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