Tuesday, January 13, 2004

like some precious only son

A couple of weeks ago I started reading reports that maybe Elliott Smith's 'suicide' wasn't as simple as it looked. Coroner and autopsy reports (which have been posted at Smoking Gun) imply that it's possible Elliott was killed. The coroner noted that the orientation of the knife wounds was consistent with self-affliction, but that some details (stabbing through clothes, possible defensive wounds on hands) were more consistent with homicide. I chose not to post on the story, because I think there's too much sensationalism going on; things that matter get ignored, things that don't matter get front page headlines. I also assumed that Elliott's girlfriend, Jennifer Chiba, had had enough trauma without the additional burden getting attacked in the press.

Chiba, who was present when Elliott killed himself and who is the subject of all of the speculation about a possible homicide, recently spoke to the press to address the suicide issue:

"Up until now I've chosen to remain silent because I want to maintain some sense of privacy for Elliott and his family and myself in this really difficult time. But I want people to know that I'm not keeping quiet because I have anything to hide. If I was a suspect, I would have heard from the investigators, for one thing. Another is that his sister and his parents and everyone close to him knows the truth, so I'm not worried about it."

I last saw Elliott perform on 20 December, 2001 at the Crystal Ballroom, his final show in Portland. He looked frail and unhealthy. He played alone, staring at the floor, forgetting some of his lyrics, skipping over the tricky chord progressions. It was very different from some of the shows we'd seen where he just exuded this beautiful energy, very intimate and playful... like the show where he played George Harrison's "Give me love" for an encore, or the show with Quasi where he closed with Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't fear the reaper".

Elliott was beautiful, but he was very sad, and he was pretty fucked up. His frailty and essential humanity, and his ability and willingness to share these in his songs, were what attracted everyone to him. They were also a source of pain so great that death by a fucking steak knife through the heart seemed preferable to continued heartache. As for the telltale evidence that clouds a confident declaration of death by suicide, I don't think it would be too hard for anyone familiar with Elliott to imagine him holding a knife up to his chest during an emotional argument. Elliott had been killing himself for years; he simply finished the job on 21 October last year.

Let him rest, people. Let Jennifer rest too. Elliott burned brightly... and then he burned out. In the meantime, he shared much beauty with us. I'd like to remember that beauty, and not some soulless legal proceedings, when I hear his music.