On this day 45 years ago, Steven Paul Smith AKA Elliott Smith was born. While he died in October 2003, his music and legacy will continue to live on as one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the late 90s. If fact, you can hear a lot of his influence in music today from The Decemberists, Conor Oberst, and Iron & Wine. While there are many great Elliott Smith songs out there, here are six that everyone should know.
1. “Miss Misery”
“Miss Misery” is probably Elliott Smith’s most well known song. Smith explicitly wrote it for Gus Van Sant and Good Will Hunting in 1997. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song the following year, but lost out to James Horner and Will Jennings for “My Heart Will Go On” for Titanic. In fact, everyone lost to Titanic that year.
Over the years, Elliott Smith grew to resent the song and hardly played it live, despite fan requests. It’s a shame, it’s one my all-time favorites!
2. “Between the Bars”
The song “Between the Bars” from Elliott Smith’s third studio album Either/Or also appeared in Good Will Hunting, but as an orchestral instrumental. Smith worked with the film’s composer Danny Elfman to properly arrange “Between the Bars” into a film score. It’s also one of the most popular Elliott Smith songs that other recording artists cover, including Metric, The Civil Wars, and sadly, Madonna, who completely butchered and misunderstood Smith’s beautiful song.
3. “Waltz #2 (XO)”
“Waltz #2 (XO)” was Elliott Smith’s first single released from his first major label (DreamWorks Records) album as a solo artist. It’s a very clever song and shows Smith’s songwriting diversity. The song was actually written as a waltz in a 3/4 time signature. The song is about Smith’s youth growing up with an abusive step-father and his ability to leave and move on from his pain with the lyrics, “I’m so glad that my memory’s remote / ’Cause I’m doing just fine hour to hour, note to note.”