In my 2001 novel Festival one of the main characters is a Liverpudlian singer/songwriter called Jake. When he gets into the Glastonbury festival, the second act he sees is a young Welsh singer who’s doing a lot better than him: Matthew Jay. Jake stands at the front, watching enviously as Jay is ogled by several teenage girls.
I watched Jay’s set at Glasto, partly because I’d bought his first EP and liked it, mainly because I thought he’d fit in the book. He was good, just as I described him. At the time, he seemed to be destined for big things. There was a new acoustic boom. His first album was about to come out. I couldn’t for a moment have imagined that he’d be dead 39 months later, at the age of twenty-four.
What little I know about Jay’s death can be found at NME.com. It’s impossible to know whether he jumped or fell. According to his record company His act would appear to have been an impulsive gesture following a professionally difficult year and perhaps, a difficult day. This uncertainty about his death is sadly reminiscent of the death of singer/songwriter Nick Drake, who I also wrote about in Festival.
This last month, one of my favourite artists, Warren Zevon, died after a long illness. So did the great Johnny Cash. I haven’t felt the need to write about either of them here. Musically, Matthew Jay may not have been in the same league as them. But I’m writing about Jay because he was a talented young man in the age group where men are most likely to kill themselves because of depression. I spent more than a few late teenage nights in the company of Nick Drake’s Pink Moon contemplating a bottle full of sleeping pills and the futility of human existence. My life got better, as most people’s do, if they have a little luck and give it time. There’s nothing romantic about suicide or the pain it causes to those left behind. It’s desperately sad.
Condolences to Matthew’s family, friends and fans.