I just found this, Dr. Mark Dombeck’s fine tribute to Elliott Smith in what he calls his Gift of Vulnerability Music at Mental Health Net:
…. I was seduced again by the rawness and immediacy of the pain that the man was able to capture; was talented enough to shape and record; was courageous enough to share with others. Listening to this song it is so obvious how completely depressed and hopeless he was feeling in the moment of creation. Since I am not feeling low these days, my reaction is not to identify with him (as I have identified with artists in the past), but rather to resonate in sympathy. If there is a song in the universe that better captures the spirit of self-loathing and hopelessness characteristic of depression, I don’t know what it is…. It is important to share this stuff, so that other people can discover and benefit from it.
His piece includes the above youtube music sample and an interesting comment by a reader who has no blood on his hands and blames suicidal psych meds, full stop.
He was told to get off of the “bad” drugs and get on the “good” drugs. How about no drugs? I really wish someone had introduced him to Jung, or Gurdjieff, or the Gospel of Thomas, or NLP, or the Pali Canon or any line of truth that can actually help someone, not help them fail. He was an angel and he was betrayed. His blood is not on my hands.
To which I reply:
Us oldtimers call this a “pathetic aesthetic”, leading stars include Kurt Cobain, Nick Drake, and Mark Eitzel, the King. It is characterized by more social criticism than what’s found in the navel-gazing shoegazers and emo kids, and we need to honor that aspect to do the artists justice and let them be understood. After all, Kurt did write Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle, if that’s not revolutionary I don’t know what is.
When I listen to Elliott, which is frequently, obsessively, and I daresay prayerfully, for lack of a better term, I am struck by how aware he was that the medical model would be the death of him. NAMI? Listen to Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands, that’s a message for YOU.
Elliott, whose father was a psychiatrist, knew the mental health system inside out, and that it promotes chronicity, dependency and soul-murder. He was a psychiatric survivor calling out to his community, listen to his words as messages emanating from his lived experience, because they were, and it’s all there, then ask yourself who abandoned him. There’s plenty of guilt to go around, no doubt.