The British singer-songwriter Nick Drake, whose death in 1974 from an overdose of a prescription antidepressant was officially ruled a suicide, is not the first musician to become popular in the wake of a premature demise. He is, however, among the few whose posthumous appeal owes more to his music's quality than to his status as a tragic hero. The recent reissue of his three official albums (Five Leaves Left, Bryter Later, Pink Moon) and the compilation Way to Blue: An Introduction (Island) should help establish his renown among the current generation.
And with good reason. He was, in retrospect-with his smoky voice, acoustic accompaniment, and subtly jazzy contours-a precursor of Norah Jones. There is, however, a difference: Whereas Miss Jones at her coolest gives off warmth, Mr. Drake at his warmest (unsurprisingly, perhaps, given the specifics of his death) invariably gives off a chill, providing, even at this late date, a bracing and sobering corrective.