Meticulous portrait of the gentle English singer/songwriter whose posthumous impact on the music world continues to gather force.
For someone with only three albums to his name, very little success in his lifetime and a career cut short by a possibly accidental drug overdose at age 26, Drake may not strike the casual reader as a particularly promising subject for a second biography. Acknowledging his debt to Patrick Humphries’s Nick Drake (1998), British music executive Dann manages to squeeze out enough revelations to make this volume a worthwhile companion to its predecessor. One essential component here is the involvement of producer Joe Boyd, who helped sculpt the cripplingly shy musician’s albums into coherence. A key player in the story, Boyd refused to participate in Humphries’s book. Dann’s text carefully traces Drake’s brief life, noting his wealthy upbringing in the sleepy English town of Tamworth-in-Arden, his time at Cambridge University, the all-too-brief relationships he enjoyed (most notably with folk singer Linda Thompson) and a life-changing experience in the French town of Aix-en-Provence, where he fleetingly performed for the Rolling Stones. Figures such as the doctor who treated Drake for depression, his former tutor at Cambridge and even Elton John all offer illuminating words on this precocious talent. The author’s in-depth familiarity with music history (the title is a nod to John Hammond’s 1992 documentary The Search for Robert Johnson) helps him convey to readers just how out-of-sync Drake was with the music scene of the late 1960s and early ’70s.
This comprehensive overview outstrips Humphries’s effort, although fans may flinch over a passage that needlessly speculates about Drake’s sexuality.