Subject: Paxil: Famous Rock star, Elliott Smith, stabs himself to death in the chest: he
had battled alcohol and drug addiction so nobody is going to think anything about the
Paxil: [except stabbing as a form of suicide was rare until the SSRIs were marketed]
Paragraph eleven states: "While it was well-known amongst his friends and peers that
Smith was battling alcohol and hard drug addiction and depression -- for which he
was on medication, according to a source -- Wood says the singer's suicide was still
The second article below reports Smith was on Paxil.
Edited By Jonathan Cohen. October 23, 2003, 11:25 AM ET
Friends, Peers Mourn Elliott Smith
The album Elliott Smith was working throughout the last year of his life was an
extraordinarily diverse effort that ranged from "phenomenal, experimental soundscapes
to the most intimate guitar vocals," his DreamWorks Records A&R man, Luke Wood,
"He was really having fun experimenting with recording," Wood says. "And as always
with Elliott, the lyrics were incredibly poignant and very consistent and very beautiful."
However diverse, the album -- reportedly titled "From a Basement on the Hill" -- was a
focused effort, Woods notes. "It wasn't like a free-for-all."
There's no word yet on what will happen to the recordings. Although Smith had tracked
more than 30 songs and was said to have been considering a double album, Wood says
it's unclear how many are complete, as Smith had a habit of working on multiple songs
at a time. "He was always editing and working," he says. "He always had a large cycle
of songs that he was making better, and sometimes that cycle took years."
Yet the Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd tells Billboard.com that when he did some casual
recording with Smith roughly a year ago, the singer had "tons of stuff that hasn't been
released. And I know a bunch was recorded and mixed and all ready to go."
Smith, 34, died Tuesday after apparently stabbing himself in the heart. According to a
source, he did so using a steak knife at his girlfriend's apartment in the Echo Park
neighborhood of Los Angeles.
About a year ago, Smith built his own studio in Los Angeles, and it was there that he
was focusing on "From a Basement on the Hill." Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
drummer Russell Simins, who occasionally collaborated with Smith onstage and in the
studio, says he recently recorded with the singer at his own studio in New York.
Some of the new songs Smith was working on included "Strung Out Again," "Let's Get
Lost," "Shooting Star," "A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity To Be Free" and
"Fond Farewell." The titles seem to suggest he may have been contemplating suicide
and revisiting his frequent themes of addiction.
In a highly unusual move, Wood says DreamWorks had reached an agreement with
Smith that allowed him to take a "sabbatical" from the label. The singer, Wood says,
was looking for a more intimate way to reconnect with the fans who had followed him
since his indie days, during which he issued albums for the Cavity Search and Kill
Rock Stars labels.
"It was sort of like, 'How do you continue to motivate and be a true partner to an artist
who's gonna want to take turns and do different things, and reach his audience more
directly without going through radio or MTV?'" Wood says. "I think it was really a
sense of him being able to feel like he was in control of his own destiny. And he
wanted to bring it down and do sort of less promotion, and focus just more on making a
record and getting it out."
Smith, Wood says, was going to release "From a Basement on the Hill" on an
independent label of his choosing, even though he would have remained signed to
DreamWorks. During his five-year tenure with the label, Smith issued a handful of
releases on indies. In August, released the single "Pretty (Ugly Before)" as a limited-
edition seven-inch on the Suicide Squeeze label.
While it was well-known amongst his friends and peers that Smith was battling
alcohol and hard drug addiction and depression -- for which he was on
medication, according to a source -- Wood says the singer's suicide was still quite
shocking. In the past six months, Wood says, the singer seemed hopeful and
excited about completing the album and then launching a tour to support it.
Says Simins, "He seemed to be doing really well lately. That's why it's really sad. We
all had a hope that he was in a good way, or at least heading towards that."
Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne wasn't so optimistic about Smith's state of mind.
He recalled the Lips' show in Los Angeles with Beck last year, where a bloated and
clearly frustrated Smith was involved in a scuffle with police and seemed to be clearly
losing his fight with addiction. "It really was nothing but sad," Coyne says. "You just
sort of saw a guy who had lost control of himself. He was needy, he was grumpy, he
was everything you wouldn't want in a person. It's not like when you think of Keith
Richards being pleasantly blissed out in the corner."
"I think it points out how unglamorous the whole drug thing really is," Coyne
continues. "For the people who knew him, the people who were around him, it was
horrible. It's not this glamorous, jetsetting, beautiful lifestyle that everybody dreams of
rock'n'roll heaven being. It wasn't like that at all. It was ugly. It was sad."Adds Drozd, "There's an undercurrent of f***in' real sadness in a lot of his music that
just f***in' crushes me. And that's just really the way he was. I hate to sound that way,
but he really was. And I can hear it in his music. That's totally him."
Addiction, Wood says, was "a constant battle for him, but I gotta say, I thought it was
one he was winning." Wood called Smith the "essence of what we would want
DreamWorks as a culture to stand for -- the true song craft, the ambition, the artistry,
his performance ability. I think he challenged the rules of songwriting and being a pop
He adds that to Smith, life was "a very beautiful and brutal place, and his songs were
that ground in between."
What was lost Tuesday, Simins says, was "someone who was really admirable as a
person and as a star. There's so much bulls*** around, so many unhumble people who
are all about the glitz and the glam and the bulls***. What we lost is a very, very, very,
very truthful, truthful, honest star. I think both as a person and as a musician, as an
artist. It's really sad because he was just brutally, brutally honest. And very smart. And
if you put the two together, it's undeniably appealing."
-- Wes Orshoski, N.Y.
Elliott Smith, 1969-2003.
by Jonathan Valania_
Near the end of The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson's storybook cinematic fable of
wasted potential, the character of Richie, a disgraced world-class tennis player with a
dark secret, looks soulfully into the bathroom mirror. It's impossible to say what he's
thinking--he looks scared, confused, angry, on the verge.
A tensely strummed acoustic guitar spirals in the background, accompanying a hushed,
faintly ominous vocal. It's Elliott Smith's "Needle in the Hay." Richie picks up a scissors
and methodically, if crudely, crops his shoulder-length tresses down to the scalp. He
lathers up his lumberjack beard and shaves it clean. He stares hard in the mirror,
unblinking, trying to recognize the face he sees.
The music swells, whispery and unnerving. He nods slightly, pops the blade out of the
razor and slashes his wrists. In the end, Richie Tenenbaum is saved.
Elliott Smith was not.
Last week he was found in his apartment in Los Angeles, dead from a self- inflicted knife
wound to the chest. Sad to say, deep down nobody who knew him is really all that
surprised. He lived in an orbit of despair, and he bore all the usual scars: inconsolable
depression, unshakeable addictions, suicidal tendencies.
He was not a pretty man, but his music could win beauty contests. Over the course of five
albums, he managed to channel a profound sadness into aching, velveteen folk-rock
carols. The best of them sound like mercy itself. Eerily, his entire songbook sounds like a
cry for help: harrowing, deeply wounded lyricism wrapped in gorgeous lullaby melodies.
That phrase--"a cry for help"--seems so obvious and cliched I'm embarrassed to type it.
But that doesn't diminish its tragic license for truth. What makes a man plunge a knife
into his chest? What makes a man jump off a bridge? Or stick a needle in his arm?
The short answer is as obvious as it is cliched: to relieve unbearable pain. That much is
undeniable, and yet it explains almost nothing. As old as life itself, suicide remains the
cruelest existential riddle. A surrender to the void, a fuck-you to the world. A desperate
peace wrested from ordinary horror.
I don't pretend to know Elliott Smith, but I spent a week with him on tour and at his home
back in 2000 when I was profiling him for Magnet magazine. From the outside he looked
like the same badly drawn boy you saw peeking shyly out of the scores of high-profile
magazine portraits that ran around the time he was nominated for an Academy Award for
his song "Miss Misery" from Gus Van Sant's Good Will Hunting. He was wearing that
same brown ski cap he always wore--the one that cocooned him from the world's harsher
At the tail end of a months-long tour in support of his last album, Figure 8, he looked
tired and thin. His long hair, unwashed for days, framed his ravaged face. I wrote that he
looked like "Christ after three days on the cross." A bit dramatic, perhaps, but no less
He played me a new song he'd just recorded. In retrospect, the irony of the title is tragic
bordering on the grotesque. It was called "A Dying Man in a Living Room."
So much of his art--bits of lyrics, album cover imagery--was a muted blare of distress.
The cover of his second album, simply titled Elliott Smith, featured two people jumping
off the roof of a building.
Elliot Smith was a very damaged soul. His childhood was rough, a fact underscored by
his unwillingness to talk about it.
"There's not much I could say about that time that I would like to see in print," he said
when I asked him about growing up. "I wouldn't want to remind any of the people
involved of that time."
By his early 20s, during the flannel glory days of the early '90s Pacific Northwest, he was
playing guitar in a Portland grunge outfit called Heatmiser. After three albums he quit the
band, because, he told an interviewer, when you grow up around a lot of yelling and
screaming, the last thing you want to do is be in a band where everyone's yelling and
He struck out on his own, making music that was the polar opposite of grunge: delicately
acoustic, painfully introspective, full of flickering-candle reverie and blurred visions of
personal disintegration. With each album, his audience grew--swelling with legions of
crushed romantics, the desperately lonely and the clinically sad. Some listened to
remember, some listened to forget.
By the time Gus Van Sant showed up, Smith had been crowned indie's sun king of rainy
mood-pop. And yet even as his profile rose, he was collapsing inside. He seesawed up
and down between heroin and alcoholism, full-blown depression and tenuous recovery.
"Shoot me up/ It's my life," he sang with brutal honesty.
Friends staged interventions. There were hospitalizations. At some point, he told me,
aided by Paxil, he simply willed himself back into the light with this personal mantra:
Things are going to work out and I am never going to stop insisting that things are going
to work out.
On the last day I spent with Smith, we sat outside his bungalow, tucked away in a leafy
section of Silver Lake. I asked him a lot of pretentious big-picture questions about love
and death and God. At one point, I asked him if he thought suicide was courageous or
"It's ugly and cruel and I really need my friends to stick around, but dying people should
have that right," he said. "I was hospitalized for a while and I didn't have that option and
it made me feel even crazier.
But I prefer not to appear as some sort of disturbed person. I think a lot of people try to
get a lot of mileage out of it, like, 'I'm a tortured artist' or something. I'm not a tortured
artist, and there's nothing really wrong with me. I just had a bad time for a while."
Even then, I could tell he didn't really believe that. It sounded like whistling past the
In the two years since I spent time with Smith, I'd heard discouraging things: that he had
fallen off the wagon--hard. That his manager--widely seen as one of the pillars of his
sobriety--had given up on him and moved on. That his record company passed on his new
album, supposedly titled From a Basement on the Hill.
His people still loved him, though. He sold out the Trocadero back in June without
having released an album in three years. A few weeks ago he released a limited-edition 7-
inch on the Seattle-based Suicide Squeeze label which contained two songs: "Pretty
(Ugly Before)" and--again, in retrospect, this is about as subtle as writing "redrum" on the
mirror in lipstick--"A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity to Be Free." That's a long
way from "things are going to work out and I am never going to stop insisting that they
are going to work out."
Last week things did not work out. I don't know if he stopped insisting that they would,
or he stopped believing what he was saying. Either way, 34 years was all he could stand
and he couldn't take any more. We have to respect that. After all, he made it clear from
the very beginning: Sooner or later the world will break your heart.