The Death of Elliott Smith

Did the musician who wrote songs for the ‘sad kids’ kill himself, or was he murdered?

Josie Klakström


Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

Elliott Smith was launched into the spotlight after his involvement in the 1997 Oscar-winner Good Will Hunting, but he didn’t enjoy the sudden fame he experienced. In an interview with Elizabeth Blair in 2000, Smith explained his disregard for the fanfare.

“I was pretty happy before all that [performing at the Academy Awards], I was going on tour and making records. It was kind of fun in a way, and it was really kind of weird in a way. It doesn’t mean anything, you know. It’s not a particularly musical environment.”

Elliott Smith’s death would become a conspiracy for the ages, with many claiming he was murdered and others believing he killed himself, but was there more to it than reported?

The music maker

Born in 1969 in Omaha, Nebraska, Smith was raised in Texas and later Portland, Oregon. At ten, Smith had received piano lessons and was self-taught on the guitar, which helped him create the music he became known for.

In 1991, he joined Heatmiser, a band based in Portland, where he enjoyed minor success. Five years later, the band was signed to Virgin but quickly disbanded after the contract was signed.

While the band had broken up, Smith had a side project and already had a solo album on the shelves with Cavity Search Records. His debut album, Roman Candle, had received mixed reviews, but the album would be the start of his musical journey.

Before the height of his fame, the musician had created his previous five albums on a four-track in the basement of his home. However, being an Oscar-nominated artist ensured he would be given studio time to develop his next masterpiece.

By 2000, he’d been making music for around five years on a professional level but still didn’t enjoy the limelight, despite moving from the East Coast to Los Angeles. He also seemed to give little regard to some of the lyrics he chose, stating that Son of Sam wasn’t about the…



Josie Klakström

Josie is a freelance journo who writes about writing, true crime, culture and marketing.