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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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Smith's depression and substance abuse may have stemmed from a larger, underlying problem. Although hinted at in various interviews but never said outright, Smith was a victim of child abuse, according to his friends, though none specified the nature of the abuse, either because they didn't know themselves or thought it too personal to make public.

"He battled a lot of inner torment," Cooper explained. "A lot of stuff from his childhood that he never went into in detail. A lot of stuff that was traumatic."

The closest Smith came to broaching the subject was in the interview with Under the Radar: "The domestic situation wasn't good," he said. "But it's not something I want to dredge up because that's been worked out between me and the person, and they don't need to feel bad about it forever."

Earlier this year, Smith started the Elliott Smith Foundation for Abused Children, and just two weeks before his death he had discussed plans for a benefit concert. Sadly, the organization's first fund-raiser, featuring Beck, Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and Grandaddy, among others, will take place November 3 without its founder.

"It's not the drugs that made him commit suicide," Hanft figured. "I'm sure that added to it, and it was more about society and more about the inner depression he was fighting for 20 years. [He wasn't] some stupid junkie on the nod."

Smith began his road to recovery last summer by entering into the Neurotransmitter Restoration Center, a Beverly Hills treatment facility not approved by the FDA. The experimental process involves intravenously introduced amino acids and vitamins that re-balance the brain's neuroreceptors so the body is no longer physically addicted to the drug. In a nutshell, it's rehab without withdrawal. And it helped Smith where a series of conventional 28-day programs couldn't.

Free from drugs, he threw himself into his work, forgoing hanging out with his friends to labor away at From a Basement on the Hill. Unlike his hermit-like existence when he was using, this time he was reclusive for a good reason.

Those who've heard the album call it a complex masterpiece akin to the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds or the Beatles' White Album, a tremendous compliment considering he idolized the Fab Four, George Harrison especially. The songs, mostly completed save for a few final mixes, range from those that call to mind his stripped-down past work to the more fully textured material of his last two albums to those that demonstrate how far Smith had come as a songwriter.

Because of an agreement Smith had with DreamWorks, he was free to release From a Basement on the Hill on an indie label of his choosing, though he had yet to pick one. The decision is now in the hands of his family. The album is expected to surface early next year.

"I was just over at his house and he was playing me mixes," Hanft said. "And the first thing I said to him after I heard them was, 'I hope that you're around for a long time.' "

Smith's death closed a chapter in indie rock. The lo-fi DIY aesthetic he and contemporaries Beck, Sebadoh and Pavement exhibited proved that emotionally resonant music was often best made with just a few basic instruments and a four-track recorder.

At the time of his debut, grunge was in full swing, especially in the Pacific Northwest, and computer-generated electronica wasn't far behind. Smith's quiet confessionals went against the grain, and he even caught some flack from Heatmiser fans who thought he'd gone soft. Fortunately for music, he did, and his raw soul-baring songs separated him from the angst-ridden pack and helped influence several of today's reflective songwriters, such as John Mayer, Oberst, and Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba.

"Elliott left behind the torch for others to pick up that will inspire the next generation," said singer Mary Lou Lord, Smith's Kill Rock Stars labelmate with whom he played his first shows. "I think when Kurt Cobain died, Elliott picked up the torch. Not everyone was meant to stick around that long. He left us with a legacy, and he'll become a legend. We're very lucky to have had him."

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