As the title implies, this song is a tribute to Nick Drake, an influential British musician who was just 26 years old when he died of an antidepressant drug overdose in 1974. The dreamy tone of the song is typical of Drake's work, and not at all what you might expect from a former member of Guns N' Roses.
Matt Sorum joined GnR in 1990, taking over on drums after Steven Adler left the band. A former session drummer, Sorum has a wide range of musical interests and influences. He discovered Nick Drake when a friend played him Drake's song "River Man
"I was just blown away with the emotion of his voice, and these string arrangements were incredible," Sorum said. "So when I went to write the lyrics for 'Ode to Nick Drake,' I basically wanted to write a love song about my wife, and what would be the other factor that would be in that equation? And I just thought, Wow, Nick Drake, I could use it as a metaphor for love. Then I basically did the idea of what David Bowie used to do. He used to write down lyrics, like, different words, and he would put them on pieces of paper and cut them up and put them on the table. So I wrote down titles of Nick Drake songs, and album titles - Pink Moon, Five Leaves Left - and I put them around and I started writing all the verses based on these Nick Drake titles.
And I thought about one of my greatest places growing up, which was this lake. My grandmother had a lake house and I'd see her every summer. It was one of the most peaceful places I've ever been. I still look at it as the place I always felt the most calm, and it was a great time for me as a kid. My best time as a kid. So I started out the song saying, 'A child was born and a loon has told me.' I used to wake to this loon on the lake going, 'Ooo, ooo,' and I just always loved that sound.
I started writing the lyrics and it started to flow. I actually played guitar on that. It's me on guitar and my vocal and one cello. I played it for my wife and she said, 'I love that song, Matt, I love it! You've got to record that!' I said, 'Oh, yeah, baby, I wrote that for you.'" (Here's our full Matt Sorum interview