Nick Drake – 15 Impressive Facts You Didn’t Know
Nicholas Rodney Drake was born on June 19th 1948 in Rangoon, Burma and died on November 25th 1974 in Tanworth-In-Arden, England.
Whether his death was accidental or not will probably never be known. What is known is that he died of an overdose of amitriptyline, an antidepressant.
During his lifetime he released 3 studio albums; “Five Leaves Left”, “Bryter Layter” and “Pink Moon”. None of these albums were overly successful and copies probably spent many years in storage at record shops.
Until 1999 when the track “Pink Moon” was used in a commercial for Volkswagen in the US which boosted Nick Drake’s album sales in the US from 6,000 copies in 1999 to 74,000 in 2000.
For more impressive facts about Nick Drake that you didn’t know, keep reading.
Table of Contents
He Was An Accomplished Athlete
In 1962 Nick Drake went to Marlborough College which is a public school in the English county of Wiltshire. He followed his father, grandfather and great grandfather who had all attended the college over the years.
He became a proficient sprinter and represented the school at both 100 yards and 200 yards. He was also a keen rugby player and was made house captain in his last few terms.
He Was Accompanied By Some Top Musicians
On Nick Drake’s first two albums, he was accompanied by some of folk music’s top artists, people like;
- Fairport Convention
- John Cale (the Velvet Underground)
- Mike Kowalski (Beach Boys session artist)
- Ed Carter (Beach Boys session artist)
- Richard Thompson (Fairport Convention)
- Danny Thompson (Pentangle)
- Harry Robinson (Band Leader)
He Formed A Band At School
Nick played the piano in the school’s orchestra as well as learning how to play the saxophone and clarinet. Along with four of his school friends, he formed a band called The Perfumed Gardeners.
He played piano in the band and sometimes sang or played saxophone too.
The band covered R&B songs that were available on the Pye International R&B label, jazz standards and popular songs by groups like Manfred Mann and The Yardbirds.
He Wouldn’t Let Chris De Burgh Join The Band
While Nick Drake was a member of The Perfumed Gardeners, another student asked to join the band.
That student was Chris De Burgh who was refused entry to the band because he was considered, “Too Poppy”.
He Started Experimenting With Open Tunings
In 1965 Nick Drake bought a Levin acoustic guitar for £13 and soon after he began experimenting with various open tunings as well as finger picking techniques.
He Spent Six Months In France
Nick Drake won a scholarship to go to Cambridge University and study at Fitzwilliam College. He delayed starting at Cambridge so that he could spend six months in France at the University of Aix-Marseille.
It was while in France that he started to spend more time learning his guitar playing techniques. He also spent time busking on the streets to earn some spending cash.
SEE ALSO: What Guitar Does Nick Drake Use?
He Was Discovered By A Member Of Fairport Convention
Nick Drake discovered the British and American folk music scenes and was very quickly influenced by artists including Bob Dylan, Donovan, Van Morrison and Josh White.
In December 1967 he was performing at the Roundhouse in Camden Town, London when he was noticed by Ashley Hutchings who was the bass player for Fairport Convention.
He introduced Nick to the producer Joe Boyd who had originally discovered Fairport Convention and was a well respected character on the UK folk music scene.
He Performed At The Royal Festival Hall
On September 24th 1969 Nick Drake opened for Fairport Convention at the Royal Festival Hall in London. He then went on to perform at folk clubs in Hull and Birmingham but he performed to greatly unappreciative audiences.
Mainly because Nick never engaged with his audiences at all. He just sang his songs and left the stage.
The title Of His First Album Came From Cigarette Papers
Nick Drake’s first album “Five Leaves Left” got its name from the old Rizla cigarette papers which used to have a tab warning that the pack was nearly empty.
The tab read, five leaves left, which Nick used as the title to his first album.
He Has Been Cited As An Influence By Many Famous Artists
Since his death, Nick Drake has been cited as an influence by many stars including; Paul Weller, Kate Bush, Robert Smith (The Cure), Peter Buck (R. E. M.), Bon Iver, Alexi Murdoch, Philip Selway (radiohead) and the Black Crowes.
In fact The Cure took their name from a line from one of Nick’s songs; “Time Has Told Me” which contains the line, “a troubled cure for a troubled mind”.
He Received Posthumous Success
In 1979 Island Records released the “Fruit Tree” box set which was all three of Nick’s already released albums along with an additional four tracks which he had recorded with John Wood in 1974 as well as a biography written by the American journalist Arthur Lubow.
By the mid 1980s many artists cited Nick as one of their main influences. Since then his life and works have been reported in many languages and many countries around the world.
One Of His Songs Was Used In A Volkswagen Commercial
In 1999 Nick’s song “Pink Moon” was used in a Volkswagen commercial for their Cabrio car. This boosted Nick’s album sales from around 6,000 in 1999 to around 74,000 in 2000.
His Songs Have Been Featured On Several Film Soundtracks
Since his resurgence in popularity Nick’s songs have been featured on a number of film soundtracks including;
- The Royal Tenenbaums
- Garden State
He Was Influenced By Some Literary Greats
Nick Drake drew his inspiration from some great writers and poets. He read works by Henry Vaughan, William Blake and William Butler Yeats.
These influences are visible in Nick Drake’s lyrics.
He Was Inducted Into The Folk Hall Of Fame
On April 4th 2018, at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Nick Drake was inducted into the Folk Hall Of Fame.
Do You Know Any More?
That’s our impressive facts about Nick Drake you didn’t know. Do you know any more? Let us know in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Nick Drake was born in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar) on June 19th 1948.
Nick Drake’s first studio album is called “Five Leaves Left” which was released in 1969.
It is not true that one of Nick Drake’s songs was used in a Ford car commercial. His song “Pink Moon” was used in a commercial for the Volkswagen Cabrio.
When Nick Drake signed to Island Records he was attending Fitzwilliam College at Cambridge university.
The name of the Nick Drake box set which was released in 1979 was “Fruit Tree”. It contained all three of his albums along with four tracks he had recorded with John Wood.
The Nick Drake song that contains the lines “I never felt magic crazy as this, I never saw moons, knew the meaning of the sea” is “Northern Sky” which was taken from the album “Bryter Layter”.
The 2001 American film starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale that featured one of Nick Drake’s songs on the soundtrack is Serendipity.
It is true Nick Drake did play the clarinet as well as the piano, guitar, saxophone and he was a singer too.
Nick Drake died on November 25th 1974, he was 26 years old when he died
The Nick Drake song that contains the lines “Hope so much your race will be all run, then you find you jumped the gun” is “Day Is Done” which was taken from the album “Five Leaves Left”.
Nick Drake was an avid athlete in his youth and as well as being a 100 and 200 yard sprinter he was also captain of his house rugby team.
It is true that Nick Drake played piano in the school orchestra whilst attending Marlborough College in Wiltshire.
The name of the band Nick Drake formed in school was The Perfumed Gardeners. Chris DeBurgh asked to join the band but was refused because he wasn’t folkie enough.
The French University that Nick Drake attended for six months in 1967 was the University Of Aix-Marseille. While there he used to busk on the streets to earn some money.
The Nick Drake song that contains the lines “Underneath you know well, you have nothing to fear” is “Cello Song” which is taken from the album “Five Leaves Left”.