Nicholas Rodney "Nick" Drake (19 June 1948 – 25 November 1974) was an English singer-songwriter and musician. Though he is best known for his sombre guitar-based songs, Drake was also proficient at piano, clarinet and saxophone. Although he failed to find a wide audience during his lifetime, his work gradually achieved wider notice and recognition; he now ranks among the most influential English singer-songwriters of the last 50 years. Drake signed to Island Records when he was 20 years old and released his debut album, Five Leaves Left, in 1969. By 1972, he had recorded two more albums—Bryter Later and Pink Moon. Neither sold more than 5,000 copies on initial release.
In those days you didn't have cassettes—he brought a reel-to-reel tape [to me] that he'd done at home. Half way through the first song, I felt this was pretty special. And I called him up, and he came back in, and we talked, and I just said, "I'd like to make a record." He stammered, "Oh, well, yeah. Okay." Nick was a man of few words.
In a 2004 interview, Drake's friend Paul Wheeler remembered the excitement caused by his seeming big break, and recalled that the singer had already decided not to complete his third year at Cambridge.
The folkies did not take to him; [they] wanted songs with choruses. They completely missed the point. He didn't say a word the entire evening. It was actually quite painful to watch. I don't know what the audience expected, I mean, they must have known they weren't going to get sea–shanties and sing-alongs at a Nick Drake gig!
Island Records was keen that Drake promote Bryter Layter through press interviews, radio sessions and live appearances. Drake, who was by this time smoking what Kirby has described as "unbelievable amounts" of marijuana and exhibiting "the first signs of psychosis", refused. By the winter of 1970, he had isolated himself in London. Disappointed by the reaction to Bryter Layter, he turned his thoughts inwards, and withdrew from family and friends. He rarely left his flat, and then only to play an occasional concert or to buy drugs. "This was a very bad time", his sister Gabrielle Drake recalled, "He once said to me that everything started to go wrong from [this] time on, and I think that was when things started to go wrong."
On 2 December 1974, after a service in the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Tanworth-in-Arden, Drake's remains were cremated at the Solihull Crematorium and his ashes later interred under an oak tree in the adjoining graveyard of St Mary's. The funeral was attended by around 50 mourners, including friends from Marlborough, Aix, Cambridge, London, Witchseason, and Tanworth. Referring to Drake's tendency to compartmentalise relationships, Brian Wells later observed that many met each other for the first time that morning. Molly recalled "a lot of his young friends came up here. We'd never met many of them.