Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nick Drake & Francoise Hardy

From Steve Foster, originally posted with whatevershebringswesing Yahoo group at:

Apologies if this isn't news - just came across it in Francoise Hardy's autobiography (Le Desespoir Des Singes) and I'm unfamiliar with either of the protagonists. The translation is mine - I've tried to keep as closely as possible to the original.

> 'Since his first album, I had liked a gifted young English
> singer and songwriter, Nick Drake, that for some
> unexplainable reason the medias were ignoring. So when I
> found myself in his country, I spoke about him to every
> journalist I met with all the enthusiasm that his great
> talent inspired in me in the hope of helping to get him
> better known. He heard about it and I was surprised to see
> him arrive at the London studio where I was recording. He
> dropped in several times, but the language barrier prevented
> us from communicating, unless it was a convenient screen to
> hide deeper inhibitions in both of us.... He would sit in
> one corner of the studio and would stay there for hours,
> without saying a word, as if it was enough for him to know
> that I liked his songs.
> Nick's extreme introversion bordered on autism. The cover
> of one album shows him sitting, next to his shoes, as if he
> wanted to exorcize his personal discomfort by making light
> of it*. He had phoned me in 1972 to tell me that he was
> passing through Paris. Rightly or wrongly each call from him
> seemed to me a kind of SOS that ought not be taken lightly.
> That evening I was due to go with some friends to have
> dinner and listen to Veronique Sanson at the Eiffel Tower
> restaurant, which doubled up as a cabaret. I had no other
> choice than to bring him along with us, which with hindsight
> now seems surreal to me. Not because Veronique Sanson, whose
> immense talent fed by an existential discomfort similar to
> his own could only touch him but to find oneself in a public
> place where strangers were quaffing champagne while speaking
> too loudly must have been the last thing that he would have
> wanted.
> It was so strange that he should arrive thus without
> warning, without ever departing from his silence that my
> instinct, perhaps wrongly, bade me to respect... So strange
> that he knew nothing about me, that I knew nothing about him
> and that neither of us sought to find out more about each
> other... Was he expecting anything? A word? A gesture? A
> step? Why had he come to Paris? Could he possibly have come
> for me? This last eventuality did not cross my mind and I am
> astonished retrospectively that I never asked any questions.
> Fear of making him uncomfortable perhaps ...fear of hurting
> him also ...
> Towards the end of 1974, his mother told me that he had
> died in his sleep of, she thought, an overdose of
> medication. He was only 26 years old! Over and above the
> distress that this news plunged me into, I could not stop
> but think his death was part of the logic of the turmoil
> that one could see in him. Would he have lived longer if he
> had met with success? Or, on the other hand, is it that part
> of him remained in limbo that success evaded him?
> Years later, someone gave me a letter from Mrs Drake. In
> the meantime I had taken some lessons in graphology of which
> I retained some of the fundamentals: I studied with interest
> and emotion the beautiful handwriting of an evolved, stable
> woman, full of warmth and life and asked myself even more
> questions on the roots of the suffering which had gnawed her
> son. Maybe he was just too sensitive? Flayed by everything
> that life threw at him? A pure soul which had underestimated
> the difficulties of earthly incarnation and which had risen
> back to heaven almost as quickly as it had come down, after
> having given the world pearls too beautiful and which it
> hadn't wanted...'

* Hardy uses the expression 'en s'en jouant' which has various shades of meaning. I hope I've got the nuance right.
Could she be reading too much into the album cover? There's an argot expression 'etre a cote de ses pompes' which
implies being head in the clouds/diverted from reality but would Drake have been familiar with the expression? I think
I read somewhere that he'd spent some time in Aix en Provence between school and university.

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