Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Deepest Sea Remains A Mystery

The opportunity presented itself a couple of weeks ago for me to dive back into the world and life of Nick Drake so I put down the book I had already started and picked up another Drake biography. I had recently read the biography of Drake by Patrick Humphries and when I came across a copy of Darker Than The Deepest Sea (published 2006) by Trevor Dann I couldn't resist it.

Nick Drake's world is a confusing and depressing place filled with beautiful music but reading two biographies on his life in a short span may have been too much for me. Still, reading Darker Than The Deepest Sea was a pleasure and it went quickly as I finished it in just two days. There's only so much information to mine about someone that lived so short a life and in a time when we didn't keep digital records of everything we do so if you've read Humphries' biography on Drake you aren't going to learn much new in this book.

Between the two biographies of Drake I found the one of Humphries to be more comprehensive and interested in dissecting every song by Drake versus the book by Dann which is more casual in its writing style but perhaps more updated having been published later with more accurate details about mostly minor things.

I did get a better sense of who young Nick was as Dann spends more time writing about Drake's public school days. For instance, I learned that Nick was a disinterested student that was barely accepted into college at Cambridge having to take his exams twice and waiting another school term. Without some pleading on his behalf from staff at his public school Drake would have never gotten a spot at Cambridge.

This book advances the idea that Drake was schizophrenic and that his drug abuse exacerbated his mental problems. Plenty of reference is made to the copious amounts of marijuana that he smoked for several years and again the idea that he was a user of heroin. The idea of him using heroin though has never been confirmed by any witness in anything that I have read about Drake. It is certainly possible that he used heroin given who he was hanging out with and that heroin seemed to fit his personality. This speculation is much different than in the Humphries biography which has Nick's friends strongly denying that he was ever known to have taken heroin.

But then Nick was a mystery to even his friends so whether he was a heroin user or not or whether he was gay or not (yes, this book too speculates on his sexuality) they simply cannot do anything more than speculate themselves like the rest us decades after his death.

People that were friends with Nick have felt like they never knew him well with his enigmatic comings and goings. So certainly none of the rest of us are ever going to figure the man out decades after his death no matter how hard we try. The dark and deep sea that was the life of Nick Drake is still a mystery. I say enjoy the music he left behind for that is what matters most and that was what made me discover him in the beginning.

This book is a good companion piece to the more in-depth biography written by Humphries. If you are a Drake fan of course the book is worth your time and if you for some reason have to choose between reading the Humphries biography or this one I would go with the one by Humphries.