Reverb Titles

Nick Drake

Nick Drake: Dreaming England by Nathan Wiseman-Trowse
Sept 2013 (UK) / Oct 2013 (North America)
Since his untimely death in 1974 at the age of 26, singer-songwriter Nick Drake has not only gained a huge international audience, which eluded him during his lifetime, but has come to represent the epitome of English romanticism. Drake’s small but much-loved body of work has evoked comparisons with Blake, Keats, Vaughan Williams and Delius, placing him within a long line of English mystical Romantics. Yet upon closer inspection Drake’s work betrays a myriad of international, cosmopolitan influences and approaches that seem to confound his status as archetypal English troubadour.

Nick Drake’s music itself hints at a specific English landscape of the kind that he would have wandered through during his lifetime. Yet his interest in blues, jazz and Eastern mysticism imply a broader conception of English national identity in the late 1960s, one far removed from mere parochial nostalgia. Similarly, the framing of Drake’s music after his death has done much to situate him as a particular kind of English artist, integrating American counterculture, the English class system and a nostalgic re-imagining of the hippy era for contemporary audiences.

Nick Drake: Dreaming England explores how ideas of Englishness have come to be so intimately associated with the cult singer songwriter. Essential reading for any fan of Nick Drake, the book will also appeal to those interested in folk music or English national identity.


Nathan Wiseman-Trowse is a senior lecturer in popular culture at the University of Northampton, UK. He is the author of Performing Class in British Popular Music. Listen to an interview with Nathan Wiseman-Trowse on Iain Griffin’s Culture Club podcast about the legacy of Nick Drake here.



‘Nathan Wiseman-Trowse analyses what [Nick Drake’s] Englishness consists of: the sense of wistfulness and melancholy, the strain of romanticism, and the pastoral landscapes evoked by his melodies and lyrics, as well as the solitary, contemplative images of Drake used for album covers and publicity shots . . . it’s an astute analysis, and an evocative reminder of the handful (fewer than 40) of beautiful, delicate songs Drake left us.’ – The Independent on Sunday

‘Contemporary music history stretches back far enough now for received wisdom to assume too great an importance. Information is much more easily accessed than before, but then irresponsibly sourced quotes on Wikipedia and other websites can, through repetition, become adopted as the truth. In complete contrast, in Nick Drake: Dreaming England, Nathan-Wiseman-Trowse starts from first principles in his thorough investigation of Drake’s creative life and legacy . . . his approach to the story becomes a compelling mix of rigorous arguments and imaginative explorations.’ – The Wire

‘There have been so many biographies of the influential singer-songwriter Nick Drake that it’s refreshing to see a book on this beloved musician that attempts to explore his work from a different angle. Drake is often referred to as quintessentially English, and Nathan Wiseman-Trowse looks at place, national identity, and Drake’s deeply melancholic writing, which often references the pastoral, to give a greater picture of why this is . . . a thought-provoking work which would be a welcome addition to any music lover or academic’s collection.’ – Songlines


By John Scanlan

John Scanlan is the Series Editor of Reverb with Reaktion Books.