LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) — Brooding singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, who earned an Oscar nomination and widespread notice for his 1997 single “Miss Misery” from the film “Good Will Hunting,” has died at age 34 in an apparent suicide, officials said Wednesday.
The body of the musician, who appeared to have stabbed himself in the chest, was found by his live-in girlfriend at their Los Angeles home Tuesday, city police spokeswoman Grace Brady said.
She said there was no sign of foul play and Smith’s death was being treated as an apparent suicide, pending an investigation by the Los Angeles County Coroner.
“We are deeply saddened by Elliott Smith’s tragic death and send our condolences to his friends and family,” Smith’s label, DreamWorks Records, said in a statement. “He was perhaps his generation’s most gifted songwriter. His enormous talent could change your life in a whisper. We will miss him.”
A native of Portland, Ore., Smith began writing songs at age 14 and started performing on the local music scene as a solo artist and with some friends in the rock band Heatmiser.
His debut solo album, Roman Candle, was released in 1994, followed by two more LPs, Elliott Smith in 1995 and Either/Or in 1997, on the influential independent label Kill Rock Stars. He also recorded three albums with Heatmiser in the early 1990s.
But his breakthrough from folk-punk obscurity to mainstream success came in 1997, when filmmaker and fellow Portland resident Gus Van Sant sought Smith’s permission to use some of his songs in the film “Good Will Hunting,” starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Robin Williams.
Smith agreed and composed a handful of new songs for the film, including “Miss Misery,” which went on to garner an Academy Award nomination for best original song. Smith did not win, but performed “Miss Misery” during the Oscar telecast in March 1998, taking the stage alongside country star Trisha Yearwood and Canadian pop songstress Celine Dion, who sang the winning song, “My Heart Will Go On” from “Titanic.”
Smith signed with DreamWorks in 1998 and quickly released his fourth solo album, XO, named one of the year’s top-20 albums by Spin magazine. The following year, his cover of the Beatles’ “Because” was included on the soundtrack to the Oscar-winning film “American Beauty.”
His latest album, Figure 8, was issued in 2000, and Smith had begun writing songs for his sixth solo release, a planned double album, DreamWorks said.