Nick Drake (1948-1974)
One of the most delicate and talented folk musicians of any era, Nicholas Rodney Drake will never be forgotten.
Englishman Drake – who was born in Rangoon, Burma due to his father’s work before returning home – recorded just three studio albums during his all too brief life, and a small collection of unreleased demos and sketches. Nonetheless, the albums- 1969’s Five Leave’s Left, 1970’s Bryter Layter and 1972’s Pink Moon – are now rightly recognised as unimpeachable classics in the folk rock canon.
Drake possessed a unique talent that went largely unrecognised in his lifetime, and the shy, sensitive soul was thought to be hurt by his lack of tangible commercial success (perhaps not helped by his inability to play live or lack of desire to undertake interviews or promotional activities).
But his distinctive finger-picking guitar style, poetic lyrics and alluring voice have all got the recognition they so truly deserved in the years following his untimely death.
In the years after his passing his influence has been noted by the likes of Lou Barlow and Robert Smith of The Cure, and can be heard perhaps most resonantly in the music of the late, and equally great, Elliott Smith.
Drake died aged just 26 on around the 24 November 1974 after a long battle with depression and loneliness, which was well documented in many of his songs. It is not known for sure whether he intentionally took an overdose of antidepressants or whether it was an unfortunate accident.
His headstone is in the parish churchyard of his small hometown of Tanworth-In-Arden. It has inscribed the lyrics from one of his most famous songs, the ‘From The Morning’ the closer from his achingly spare final album Pink Moon. It reads: ‘Now we rise / And we are everywhere’.
An irreplaceable talent that is much missed, Drake is lauded as the ultimate doomed romantic. His influence is evident by the hordes of fans who have flocked to this small parish village in the years since his death.
Location: Tanworth In Arden Church, Tanworth In Arden, Solihull, Warwickshire B94 5AJ
Bert Jansch (1943-2011)
Glasgow born Scottish folkie Herbert ‘Bert’ Jansch was one of the most important and influential musicians to emerge out of the British folk revival of the 1960s.
With his folk group Pentangle and as a solo artist, Jansch’s innovative finger-picking style and sublime musicianship has influenced a whole host of musicians including contemporaries like Nick Drake, Neil Young, Jimmy Page and Paul Simon and younger generations such as Johnny Marr and Devendra Banhart.
Jansch enjoyed a long and fruitful career, releasing 23 solo studio albums, along with numerous live recordings and several acclaimed efforts with Pentangle.
He died on 15 October 2011 after a long battle with lung cancer and was buried in the Highgate East cemetery in London. His wife, Loren Auerbach died of cancer almost two months later on 9 December 2011, and is buried beside him.
Location: Highgate Cemetery (East), Swain’s Lane, London, England N6 6PJ
Despite his violent life, Folk-blues musician Lead Belly remains a hugely influential figure in popular music.
Born Huddie Ledbetter circa 1889 in Mooringsport, Louisiana, he lived much of his early life on the wrong side of the law, being imprisoned for murder in 1918.
Legend has it that the folk singer- whose songs often lyrically portrayed the life of the errant or working poor – achieved an early release from the slammer in 1925 through impressing the then governor of Texas with his 12 string guitar ability and powerful voice.
Despite his release, Lead Belly fell foul of the law once again in 1930, this time for attempted murder. Soon after his musical talent was discovered by the Lomax brothers John and Alan, who were collecting songs for the Library of Congress. And the rest as they say, is history.
Lead Belly went on to record and publish 48 of his songs, of which many have become standards. He moved to New York to try a music career, but you’ve guessed it, got involved in more crime.
The African-American songwriter’s songs have been covered by the likes of Nirvana (‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night’) and Uncle Tupelo (‘John Hardy’) over the years. Indeed, Kurt Cobain’s late obsession with Lead Belly brought his work to wider attention in the early 1990s.
His gravestone in the Shiloh Baptist Church Cemetery in his hometown lists his Hall of Fame achievements and calls him “A Louisiana Legend.” It is a popular sport for blues enthusiasts who have been know to stop by, including a certain super-fan named Robert Plant.
Location: Shiloh Baptist Church Cemetery, Mooringsport, Caddo Parish, Louisiana, USA 71060
Folk legends not buried: Tim Buckley (1947-1975)