When it comes to the late songwriter Elliott Smith, there are the things most people know.
He wrote brilliantly crafted and intensely personal, if somewhat dark and sometimes morose, songs.
He was closely associated with Portland, having lived here on-and-off since he was 14.
And Smith’s death 10 years ago — of stab wounds to the chest — is one of the most dramatic and mysterious exit stories in the history of American music.
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There’s all that. But then there’s the side Ashley Welch tells us about: generous and charitable, especially when it comes to kids.
Welch is Smith’s younger sister, and she’s organizing four benefit concerts around the country for kids’ charities. The first one is this Sunday at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, benefitting Outside In.
Welch says, “He had a soft spot for anybody in need.”
When he could afford it, he would stuff $100 bills in the boots of people he met on the street who didn’t have money. He was also in the process of developing a charitable foundation when he died.
Welch was inspired to organize the concerts after realizing this was going to be an Elliott Smith kind of year. The 10th anniversary if his death is this October. His 44th birthday would have been this month. A book is coming out, and a documentary about Smith’s life is in the works.
Welch also feels enough time has passed, and she is emotionally prepared to be a public advocate for the organizations Smith cared about.
The concert series is called No Name #1, after an Elliott Smith song, one of Welch’s favorites.
“Something about that song really connected with me,” Welch says.