The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #139: Pink Moon by Nick Drake (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #139: Pink Moon by Nick Drake.

As we have journeyed through the songs in this countdown, we have discovered that there are many legitimate reasons that songs become popular enough to be rated as being among the very best of all-time. In today’s post, we will look at a song by one of the most unique performers on this entire list, Nick Drake. This song, “Pink Moon”, was a modest hit at the time it was released in 1972. But, it really ended up capturing the public’s eye by, of all things, how it was used in a television commercial almost thirty years later; long after Nick Drake was dead and the light of his musical legacy had grown dim. Here is the story of Nick Drake and “Pink Moon”.

Nick Drake died when he was only 26 years old. All throughout his young adult life, Drake had been plagued by a series of mental health issues; the greatest of which was Clinical Depression. Because of his mental health issues, Nick Drake was very much an atypical rock star. He shunned celebrity and lived a very reclusive life. He would not/could not tour to promote his first two albums. He made no music videos. I could not find any live performance videos of him singing any of his songs. The only real evidence that Nick Drake lived and sang and created music was in the albums he created. Nick Drake was a folk singer, along the lines of a Cat Stevens type of performer. His preferred method of recording his music was alone in a studio, with only his recording engineer on hand. His third, and final, album, was entitled “Pink Moon” by record executives who did not even know Drake was recording a new album until, one day, when he walked into their corporate headquarters with a master tape under his arm. Apparently, according to eye-witnesses, Drake was acting strangely and was asked by staff if he could use a cup of tea. He accepted the tea and sat, curled up, in the corner of the waiting room, speaking to no one and slowly drank his tea. He left without talking to anyone but, on his chair, was the master tape reel. On it, staff members found the songs for his album which they called, “Pink Moon” on his behalf. All of the songs were acoustic; only his voice, a small bit of piano and his guitar. No other musicians appear on the entire album, which ran only twenty-eight minutes long in total.

The lyrics to the song, “Pink Moon” are very simplistic and child-like. If someone like me was to attempt to peddle them as my debut offering, I am sure I would be rejcted out of hand. But, because his record label had invested in Drake, they took his work for what it was and released his album as he had recorded it. Album sales were mediocre, at best. Nick Drake disappeared from sight not long afterwards and, by age 26, he had overdosed on anti-depressants and died. His legacy would have barely warranted a footnote in the annals of music history, if not for the keen ear of an advertising executive who was charged with making a marketing campaign for the new Volkswagon Cabriolet automobile. The ad agency was called, “Arnold Worldwide” and their genius was in recognizing that Nick Drake was not writing lyrics to tell a story, he was actually writing lyrics to try and heal himself by creating a peaceful state of tranquility in his own head. Nick Drake sought calmness and relaxation and so, he ended up creating a safe harbour for himself through his music. When he sang and played and/or when he wrote, he did so for himself. It was a form of therapy for him, as it turned out. For those in charge of marketing for Volkswagon, this tranquil song was used to perfection to show the beauty of silence and peacefulness that can come from a moonlit drive, in our busy, hectic, noisy world. The ad struck a chord with viewers and caused the ad to become one of the first videos of the new Information Age to go viral. Suddenly, people were demanding to know who the sweet-sounding singer of this new ad was. And, just like that, in death, Nick Drake’s career gained new life and became real.

Nick Drake was almost invisible in life. But, in death, his work has been re-interpreted and, as a result, we have all gained a greater understanding for the power of the poetry Drake used to find peace in his tormented mind. So, in a departure from my normal way of structuring these posts, I am going to play the video from the Volkswagon ad as the main video below. I have no live video to share so, in the comments section, I will post a lyrics version, for anyone who needs help with the words. Rest in peace, kind sir. Thanks for your beautiful songs. Here is “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake, can be found here.

The link to the lyrics version of the video for the song, “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake, can be found here.

The link to a short video about the influence Nick Drake had on others, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Nick Drake, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for playing gentle tunes by gentle souls. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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