R.I.P. Elliott Smith

What is heaven like Elliott Smith? I have been listening to your records since I got home this morning and I found out that you died. Did you get to meet Him right away? I bet they moved you to the front of the line. Is God nice? Do you feel better? Your songs were like the thoughts that rushed through my head all the time, this bittersweet dark rainy loveliness that wouldn’t leave me, and I never wanted them to leave me, but sometimes it was sad, and sadness is kind of my religion, and I worshipped you because you weren’t afraid to show it. I cannot believe that your soft voice is now silent and there is only these Kill Rock Stars cds left, that swirly Figure 8 album cover, looking like it was lifted from that Silverlake storefront, all your songs, the perfect lyrical accompaniment to my own personal loneliness to remember you by. I wish I had told you how much your music meant to me, to so many many people. There was a bunch of times I could have said it, when I saw you hanging out at the back of Largo and you with your vintage tee and rust cords and All Stars, but I got scared that you wouldn’t like me, and I never said anything. A handful of times I saw you in New York, walking fast in the East Village, but it was like you were surrounded by a light that held you up above the street and you didn’t touch the ground but floated up above just an inch or so that you were there but not there. I could see you but you couldn’t see me.

You were supposed to save pop music. Remember that LA Weekly cover? Your face on the front, looking scared and beautiful, and I am sorry, so so so very sorry that you are gone. What happened? I guess it doesn’t matter now and nothing does really. I just feel sorry and bad that we couldn’t do anything to help. That all the people that loved you really didn’t make much of a difference. That our love wasn’t enough, or didn’t reach you, or put you off, that you were unhappy anyway. But maybe your unhappiness was what we loved about you, so that our love was a constant reminder of how much unhappiness you had. I understand. We were selfish then, and for that I am angry for you. Mad for you. Sad for you. Loving you from here on the earth where things aren’t so great, not at all, but fuck you made things a lot better and now that you are not here we just all have to act like life goes on and there goes another rock star and its better to burn out instead of fade away and whatever the fuck – whatever the fuck. All I can say is that I am crying as I write this, as I listen to your secretly sorry voice on Either/Or and I am wondering if you are hovering in the air above your house, watching the grief stricken fans and old friends walking wounded trying to understand where you went, why you went. If they can reach you now, with their thoughts, their hearts, their love. Can you see them? Does it make anything better? A whole shitload of hipsters are crying right now, hiding behind their ironic 70s sunglasses and vintage western snap front shirts. Legions of girls with scars from cutting themselves and dyed black hair are lighting candles and contemplating joining you today. Thirtysomething dudes with dirty shag haircuts are shaking their heads, looking down at their big jokey belt buckles, thinking about having a beer before the sun goes down, because it isn’t a good day for any of us, because you aren’t here to represent.

One time I was in Portland on tour, an early morning before I was about to leave for home and I walked into a bagel shop. You were there, not in person, but your record was playing. The sleepy, baby cute hippie kid behind the counter was singing along to you, quiet just like you, and he knew every word. There was another raggedy girl cleaning up tables behind me, and she was singing too. Then this other kid came into the shop, and waited in line, and he was singing – as if on cue, a little off key, but almost in harmony. Pretty soon, so was I. But we were all in our own private worlds, our voices barely audible, singing only for ourselves. Were you singing for yourself? I hope so. I hope that you could love your music like it was loved by everyone else.

Goodbye gentle soul. Goodnight. How sorry I am to see you go. But you were maybe too beautiful for this world. So beautiful that it hurt to be in it. I hope that you are not hurting anymore. I hope everything is good wherever you are. I hope that you are happy. Everything reminds me of you.

12 Comments. Add To The Mix…

  1. I read this post five years ago. Just this past week someone asked me why I like Elliot Smith’s music so much, and I referred them to this post. It says it better than I could.

    Thanks for writing this.

  2. I read this for the first time today, maybe 6 years after elliott smith’s death, and this post really moved me. Great words. Thank you.

  3. Beautiful words. He was a beautiful guy. I’m glad I got to see him and be in his presence for a short period. He’s one of the people I didn’t photograph, and I will regret it forever.
    I’ve seen you live a couple of times. One amazingly funny show in Baltimore. Not that the other was chopped liver.
    (I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted chopped liver.)

    If you’re ever in the area, let’s set up a shoot!
    I’ll make you famous!
    (Hopefully the sarcasm came through there)
    But I would love to take a couple shots of your face for my book coming out on Scapegoat.

    Favorite Elliott Smith song, the secret one on the end of the last Heatmiser rekkid. Half Right / Not Half Right…

  4. thank you so much for this post. as a melancholy child of the new millennium, obssessed with music and comedy, the deaths of elliott smith and mitch hedberg were the two moments i remember learning of. I found my computer printout of this eulogy in my childhood bedroom a little while ago and remembered how brilliant it was and how it helped me get through our collective sorrow. because elliott represented my sorrow in a way which is bad in and of itself, what, a, burden. but as far as your written words it is the greatest i’ve read…”Your songs were like the thoughts that rushed through my head all the time, this bittersweet dark rainy loveliness that wouldn’t leave me.” bittersweet dark rainy loveliness…that’s beautiful. thank you. peace.

  5. I’ve been obsessed with Elliott Smith for about three months now. I just stumbled across his music and heard one song. I couldn’t stop listening to that one song, I would just put it on repeat and listen to it over and over. I later bought some other songs, also listening to those songs over and over. He has been my favorite musician ever since and I can’t go a day without hearing his beautiful voice. Whenever my friends ask me who my favorite musician is, I just say some other person, because I don’t want other people to love him like I love him, being the selfish person that I am. You are right though–his songs are so bittersweet, there’s no other way to describe them. I want to cry but at the same time I feel hope surrounding me, telling me that I can make it. I feel like this man has made such a huge impact on me, even with the short time that I’ve known about his music. I know this post is old, but in 2003 I was like 3 years old. And it makes me sort of happy that there are other people like me, not forgetting about this amazing man.

    I love you, Elliott.

  6. this has really touched me deeply as a huge elliott smith fan. we all felt like he were close to us, even when most have never met him. his work encouraged me to be the artist that i am today. i know personally how hard it is to find cool elliott smith merch so i started up a page with a wide variety of merchandise
    that features my work inspired by the elliott smith memorial wall, and his album either/or. i would greatly appreciate your contribution to my own work.

  7. I have been missing him or what he meant to me so much these last couple of months. Just listening to playlist after playlist on youtube of his concerts and interviews and the little movies made by his friends. Just trying to find every example of his sweet face and his sweet voice and playing it over and over. And just searching for every good thing written about him which brought me here. Christ, Margaret Cho, if this isn’t the most beautiful thing I’ve found 10 years after the fact. I mean holy shit what a tribute. This made my heart clench up. If your love letters to your lovers and ex-lovers are anything like this I don’t see how anyone could ever not love you forever. Thank you for writing this and sharing yourself with us.

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