5/20/2010

Nick Drake and Volkswagen: A Bittersweet Anniversary

A current AT&T ad has been on our minds lately. It's the one featuring iconic British singer/songwriter Nick Drake's "From the Morning",
the closing track from his much beloved and final album Pink Moon [Island-1972]. Two years after that album's release, at the age of 26, Drake died either accidentally or on purpose of an overdose of antidepressants. And while he was no pop star during his lifetime, he'd been largely forgotten in the years immediately following his demise.

From the mid '80s and throughout the '90s, the likes of R.E.M. and Robert Smith of The Cure--as well as the efforts of legendary producer Joe Boyd--brought Drake's name back into the fold, along with a series of reissues and documentaries. But it was ten years ago that his music was finally exposed to the millions of people Drake had wanted, in his own way, to reach.

In 2000, a quarter century after Drake's passing, Volkswagen licensed the title track from Pink Moon for a US television ad campaign. Sales of his catalog rose dramatically after this exposure, with Pink Moon in particular selling more copies in the days following the airing of the ad than it had while Drake was alive. He's since been rediscovered by a whole new generation of listeners, thanks in no small part to this particular ad and the subsequent inclusion of his songs in numerous films, among them, Serendipity, The Royal Tennenbaums, and Garden State.

Nick Drake's wonderful, ethereal folk rock warrants every bit of recent exposure it's gotten and more. The fact that it all began with a car commercial just makes it a tad bittersweet. But we'll take it.

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