Elliott Smith

Cherished as one of the great singer-songwriters of the 1990s, Elliott Smith was a shy, melancholy outsider, whose gentle, bitter-sweet ballads made him a cult favourite of indie fans before his sudden death in 2003 at only 34-years-old. Raised in Duncanville, Texas, he grew up in a religious household with an abusive step-father, but found an escape in music and spent his childhood learning to play guitar and piano. Moving to Portland, Oregon at 14 to live with his father, he played in several high school groups and, while studying philosophy and political science at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, he formed the indie rock outfit Heatmiser. The band were highly regarded on the US alternative scene and landed a deal with Virgin Records, but Smith grew uncomfortable with the band's style and his own lo-fi, acoustic recordings turned into his solo debut album 'Roman Candle' in 1994. His hushed, fragile vocal style and sweet, plaintive melodies won great critical acclaim on 1997's 'Either/Or' and drew the attention of director Gus Van Sandt, who used five of Smith's tracks on the soundtrack to the hit Matt Damon movie 'Good Will Hunting'. It led to him being nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, and he gave a memorable performance of 'Miss Misery' at the ceremony alongside fellow nominee Trisha Yearwood and eventual winner Celine Dion. The recognition propelled his next album 'Figure 8' into the UK top 40 but the angst and depression which had haunted Smith and inspired much of his work - along with heavy drinking and heroin use - caused his mental state to deteriorate. On October 21, 2003 he was found dead in his home in Echo Park, Los Angeles with two stab wounds to his chest. Although the coroner's report was left open, it's believed that the wounds were self-inflicted. His sixth studio album 'From the Basement' was posthumously released a year later and reached number 19 in the US charts.

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