How Did Elliott Smith Die? Was it Suicide or Homicide?

how did elliott smith die
How Did Elliott Smith Die? An Image from Smith's last show in NYC in January 2003. Image by Alexis on Wikimedia Commons.

Last updated on January 24th, 2023 at 12:15 am

Elliott Smith is often referred to as one of the most influential artists of the early 2000s. But sadly, he is no longer on this earth. So how did Elliott Smith die?

We’ve got the answers to that and more in this article. Read on to learn how Elliott Smith died, as well as learn some insight into his career while he was alive.

Elliott Smith Early Life

Elliott Smith was born with the name Steven Paul Smith in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1969. His parents divorced shortly after his birth and his mother took Steven to Texas with her.

He later had a rocky relationship with his stepfather and even alleged that he was abused by him in some of his songs.

At age 9, Steven began playing the piano, and he later began guitar lessons as well. He was clearly very gifted and composed his first song on the piano in the same year.

Steven then moved in with his father in Portland, Oregon, where he began recording his own songs. After graduating high school, he decided to change his name to Elliott because he didn’t like the way Steve or Steven sounded.

elliott smith career
Elliott Smith performing at the Henry Fonda Theater in Los Angeles, CA on 2-1-2003. Picture taken by user llaurens of the message board community on Wikimedia Commons.

Elliott Smith’s Career

Elliott Smith didn’t start out on a path in music, in fact, he attended college for the purpose of studying philosophy and political science. During his college career, he formed a band with one of his classmates called Heatmiser. The band released several albums after Elliott’s graduation.

The band wasn’t very successful, and Elliott and his bandmates frequently worked odd jobs on the side in order to make ends meet. They were even on unemployment benefits for a time.

It wasn’t until 1994, when Elliott sent a recording of his solo work to Cavity Search Records, that he became famous. The studio loved his recording and agreed to release his first album, Roman Candle.

His album was well-received, which surprised Elliott. He felt his music was so different than the current trends in the industry.

He went on to release several more records in the 90s. Most people are familiar with his song “Miss Misery,” which was nominated for an academy award.

Despite his success, Elliott fell into a depression in 1998, writing numerous songs about suicide and even discussing it openly. He even made several attempts to end his own life, but none were successful.

In 2001, Elliott began showing signs of paranoia. He attempted to write new songs but was unsuccessful. He began binging on drugs and alcohol and continued to threaten suicide until he was released from his current contract with DreamWorks.

All this came to an end on August 6, 2003, when the artist gave up alcohol, drugs, sugar, and red meat. During this time, many of his mental issues cleared up, and he began working on new music.

Which brings us to the main question, how did Elliott Smith die?

How Did Elliott Smith Die?

Elliott Smith died on October 21, 2003, under mysterious circumstances. He died at home from two stab wounds to his chest while his girlfriend was home. When asked for her statement, she claimed that she came out of the bathroom to find that Elliott Smith had stabbed himself.

Elliott Smith’s death was investigated by the police, and his cause of death was inconclusive. When his girlfriend, Jennifer Chiba, was asked how did Elliott Smith die, she claimed it was suicide and that the artist left a note. But the official autopsy says it may have been a homicide.

To this day, the case of Elliott Smith’s death remains unsolved.


What Were Elliott Smith’s Last Words?

Jennifer Chiba, Elliott Smith’s girlfriend at the time of his death, showed investigators a sticky note which read, “I’m so sorry—love, Elliott. God forgive me.” Which many consider to be his last words.

Chiba reports that she and Elliott were fighting when she went in the bathroom but did not disclose what they were fighting about. She reported opening the door when she heard him scream. Other than that, he did not utter any last words.

How Old Was Elliott Smith When He Died?

Elliott Smith was 34 years old when he died from two stab wounds to the chest.

Did Elliott Smith Kill Himself?

Elliott Smith’s girlfriend insinuated that the artist did indeed take his own life. Because of past attempts and threats to kill himself, as well as the leaving of a suicide note, many believed that the artist did indeed take his own life.

The police aren’t sure, however, as it is very difficult to stab yourself. The case of his death remains an open investigation. There were no traces of alcohol or illegal drugs in his bloodstream at the time of his death.

Elliott Smiths Funeral

Elliott Smith’s body was cremated, and his ashes were divided between his family members.  There doesn’t appear to have been a funeral, but there were several memorial concerts played across the nation.

elliott smiths death
Singer-songwriter Elliott Smith performing at Seattle’s Bumbershoot festival in 2000. Image by Jeffry on Wikimedia Commons.

Elliott Smith’s Memorial

Fans immediately built a memorial for Elliott Smith at 4334 Sunset Boulevard in LA, where his Figure 8 album was shot, but over the years, it has been the target of frequent vandalism. Occasionally the memorial will be restored by fans.

Overall, it was a tragic day when indie music lost Elliott Smith. He was truly a turning point in the industry, and despite all his failures and struggles, it seemed like he was on the road to repair.

Hopefully, someday, the police will be able to answer the question of how did Elliott Smith die more completely, but we also have a feeling his death may remain unsolved.  

Related: How Did Buddy Holly Die?

Related: How Did John Denver Die?

Related: How Did Coolio Die?

Written by Hope Davis

Long-time music lover Hope became a full-time writer in 2020 after being laid off from her regular job due to COVID-19. She now spends her time traveling the world to see her favorite bands while writing about them!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





worst k-pop songs

The 21 Worst K-Pop Songs of All Time

how did karen carpenter die

How did Karen Carpenter Die? The Tragic Details of Her Eating Disorder