Why did Elliott Smith die

On the 10th anniversary of Elliott Smith's death

Elliott Smith

Elliott Smith, actually Steven Paul Smith, is known for his soft voice and melancholy songs. He had a tough time growing up in Texas in the 1970s. His stepfather made life difficult for him. When he was 14, he moved to live with his father, who taught him music. A few years earlier he had given him a guitar. In the new town, Smith made friends with whom he began playing in bands. Unfortunately, it was here that he also became acquainted with alcohol and other drugs.

Still, he got through school and college with determination. With a degree in philosophy, he began to keep himself afloat doing odd jobs. He also devoted himself to music. At the beginning of the 90s he and friends founded the band Heatmiser, to which the major label Virgin became aware. Before their debut "Mic City Sons" could appear there, however, the band broke up.

One reason for this was that Steven, who now called himself Elliott Smith, also made solo music and was therefore more popular than Heatmiser. His girlfriend at the time convinced him to send a few songs that he had recorded to a label. To his surprise, they wanted to release not just one single, but all eight tracks. Elliott Smith's debut "Roman Candle" was released in 1994.

"Elliott Smith" followed just a year later, this time for the renowned indie label "Kill Rock Stars" from Olympia. From the beginning, Elliott Smith's songs revolved around heavy topics such as depression and drug addiction, such as “St. Ides Heaven ”and“ Needle In The Hay ”. The latter used director Wes Anderson in a suicide scene in "The Royal Tenenbaums". Various addictions accompanied Smith throughout his life, but he always stuck to music.

The musician should become known to a wide audience in 1998. Gus Van Sant, who knew Smith from Portland, wanted some songs from him for the soundtrack of "Good Will Hunting". The song "Miss Misery" was nominated for an Oscar in 1998 and Elliott Smith appeared with it at the ceremony.

The Oscar went to Celine Dion for "My Heart Will Go On," nonetheless the nomination gave Elliott Smith's career a boost. In 1998 "XO" was released. None of his albums sold more than this one. But Smith's health was going downhill. He suffered from increased depression and tried to kill himself. In between, the musician stabilized again thanks to his friends, but when he was on tour with “Figure 8” in 2000 and it seemed as if he had caught himself, he fell for heroin. He suffered a lot, had paranoid episodes, and broke his label.

No rehab could cure him in the long run. But although his life was a constant up and down, he went back to the studio. He also recorded two songs for the film “Thumbsucker”, both covers: “Thirteen” by Big Star and “Trouble” by Cat Stevens. His music got louder and rougher, but he stayed true to the folk. However, he never finished his last album "From A Basement On A Hill".

After an argument with his girlfriend Jennifer Chiba on October 21, 2003, he is said to have stabbed himself in the shower. Chiba found him after hearing a loud scream from the bathroom and called the ambulance. But he could only determine Smith's death. Elliott Smith left a short suicide note, but it is still controversial to this day whether he killed himself or whether Chiba had anything to do with his death.
From A Basement On The Hill, which Smith had worked on for over four years, came out a year after his death.


You might also be interested in: