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 "I know he was completely clean" ...



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 Smith had spoken frankly about suicide for years ...



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 When the final recordings will surface ...







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Coming of age in Portland, Oregon, Elliott Smith's life was dogged by chronic depression and struggles with addiction. He made a few failed attempts at rehabilitation, and concerned friends staged an intervention after the release of his 1997 LP, Either/Or, the album that took him from a little-known indie rocker with a solo side project (he was still a member of the decidedly more rocking Portland band Heatmiser when his first two albums dropped) to an influential figure of the underground. A second intervention came courtesy of DreamWorks in 2001.

He had spoken frankly about suicide for years, and reportedly had attempted to kill himself in 1997. While living in New York during the Either/Or era, he would tell friends that he periodically walked along the subway tracks.

"I talked him out of thinking that he wanted to kill himself numerous times when he was in Portland," said Christopher Cooper, head of Cavity Search Records, the label that released Smith's 1994's solo debut, Roman Candle. "I kept telling him that he was a brilliant man, and that life was worth living, and that people loved him."

Despair plagued Smith through 1998, when he was invited to perform his Oscar-nominated song "Miss Misery," from the film "Good Will Hunting," at the Academy Awards ceremony.

"He was never comfortable with his fame or with people appreciating what he did," Cooper said. "Even when he was on television in front of a billion people at the Oscars, you could almost hear him shaking."

Punk rock even at his most watched performance, Smith refused to sing on the moving scrim the producers had envisioned. He would play unceremoniously with his guitar or not at all. In one of indie rock's most surreal moments, Smith, dressed to the nines in a white Prada suit and clearly out of his element, played the same stage that night as Celine Dion and Trisha Yearwood.

"When he walked out from the side stage, it was like, 'Whoa, there he is!' " Cooper said. "Then I cried. I cried. I was like, 'There's my boy.' "

Smith admitted in an extensive interview with Under the Radar magazine earlier this year that the whole thing was kind of ridiculous and that he threw himself into the Academy Awards fanfare primarily for the benefit of his friends.

"All of my friends were like, 'One of us is on the moon!' " he told the magazine in one of his last published interviews.

As the indie-rock community rejoiced, unbeknownst to them Smith had begun to spiral out of control. Already a heavy drinker while living in New York, he began coupling alcohol with antidepressants. An intervention in Chicago during the Either/Or tour proved ineffective.

While still residing in New York, he worked on his first album for DreamWorks, 1998's XO, in Los Angeles, where he was reacquainted with a drug problem thought to have been left behind in Portland.

He eventually relocated to Los Angeles to work on 2000's Figure 8, a move that possibly fed his addiction, or at least facilitated it.

"I always thought he should have gotten out of Los Angeles," Drozd said. "Go back to Oregon, go back to a small town that's not so f---ing Hollywood, music-industry based. In a lot of ways it's a fantasy land. L.A. is the last place a person with a bunch of money, potential and drug habits should be living."


Next: 'He wasn't some stupid junkie on the nod'; and when Smith's last recordings will surface ...
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Photo: Dreamworks

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  "Miss Misery"
Good Will Hunting Soundtrack
(Capitol)



  "Son Of Sam"
Figure 8
(DreamWorks)



  "Coming Up Roses"
Elliott Smith
(Kill Rock Stars)



 "Strange Parallel"
A Promotional Film
(DreamWorks)





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