The last credible sighting of Richey Edwards alive took place on this day, February 7, seventeen years ago. A taxi driver claims he picked the Manic Street Preachers guitarist up from the King's Hotel in Newport, and drove him round the valleys, including Blackwood, where Richey and the rest of the Manics had grown up.
The journey ended at Severn View service station near Aust, where Richey - if it was indeed him - paid the £68 fare and got out. It's highly likely, though not certain, that he ended his life by jumping off the Severn Bridge at some point in the week that followed.
Almost two decades on, there's still an aura round Richey. Pictures of him have a faintly mesmerising quality, as though they have some nagging wisdom to impart. An anti-guitar hero whose influence was as much intellectual and literary as it was musical, Richey lives on in the memories of fans. Few musicians have engendered quite such strong emotions.
Recently I asked NME's followers and Facebook subscribers to share their memories of Richey. You can read a selection of their responses by mousing over the faces below.
- Billy Bell Ottewill
"To me, Richey was one of the greatest intellectuals ever. He believed in the power of knowledge and in liberating the people by making them more intelligent than the people who push them down. He made rock 'n' roll exciting and meaningful. He became the most honest lyricist of his generation, and possibly of all time. No-one's ever filled his shoes. They probably never will."
- Daniel Linke
"His lyrics were purely and simply influential... I was a reasonable Manics fan until I heard "The Holy Bible", which was just so savage and dark and reflected my 16 year old self at the time, and then "Journal For Plague Lovers" came out about six months after which inspired me to write lyrics like his even more."
- Shirley Smith
"I'm a die hard Manics fan, I followed them for 21 years, went to see them when they first started out. Cannot really express in words what they mean to me. Richey was a genius, we haven't seen many like him since he vanished"
- Kate Rowan-Robinson
"A wonderful poet. All these years later, I've grown up, got married, had a child, have a career. And I still hold a very special place in my heart for that dear, sweet, amazing, brilliant man. I've learned so much since my teen years and my MSP obsession, I can now see the reality of what was going on so much clearer, but he still captures me and I still love his music to this day."
- Clare L Swift
"His lyrics move me in no way that anyone else has ever been able to do... Richey was the voice of my generation."
- Dean Sweet
Beginning to end, The Holy Bible is simply outstanding. You don't even need to hear the music, the lyrics on their own are a form of art.
- Tom Holt
"I remember him as one of the most profound and at times disturbing lyricist of his time! He was so intellectual, maybe too intelligent for his time, but lyrics had such meaning... A true alternative icon of the 90's"
- Emily Jane
"Incredibly brave and an honest and talented lyricist. He was fundamental to the Manics despite his musical limitations because it gave them an intelligent and interesting edge. He was also brilliant in interviews and really understanding of people. So basically an honest and hugely intelligent man, who still affects the work of the band today."
- Paul Banner
"Richey was the ultimate guitar idol. He showed me that you didnt even need to play guitar to start a band. I couldnt play a note when my mates first asked me to join their band."
- Jake Smith
"Enigmatic genius and the best creative lyricist of his generation! Arguably the last true rock star through everything he said and did (controversial, smart and entertaining). Perfect fusion of high and low culture."
- Daz Bananas
"Richey is an icon for a generation. Hopefully he's still out there poised for return one day. Then the music industry won't know what's hit them. Long live the king"
- Pa Ul
"Personally I always found Richey quite inspirational to talk to... He was also quite mischievous, and had a wicked grin and sense of humour."
- Katie Clark
"He was controversial, beautiful, entertaining, honest and incredible intelligent. There hasn't been anyone like him since. His passion for words is something you don't see now, He wasn't scared to push boundaries... not many band members can get you into reading all sorts of books and poetry, get you passionate about history and politics whilst still covered in leopard print and eyeliner. He was the voice for the useless generation. The last true rock icon."
- Kajsa Lundquist
"He has helped me through a lot of difficult times... His lyrics are pure beauty, just look at "Williams's last words", "Doors closing slowly" and "Facing page: top left". He's been such an inspiration to me. He has inspired me to read and to write. I adore him, and I'm so grateful for everything that he has taught me. There has not been anyone like him since - there will probably never be."
- Dan Thomas
"One of my best and most recent Richey Memories - in 2009 just when everyone thought the good albums were behind the band - they storm back on the scene with the Richey-written Journal for Plague Lovers and show the world once again that they are able to produce 100% untouchable albums to rival their most critically acclaimed work. Bravo."
- Rachel Allen
"Richey: Beautiful, intelligent, a wonderful lyricist, a style icon, a true rockstar! I'm so glad that JDB, Nicky and Sean continued, and that Richey's presence is still felt in each song and at every gig."
- Jack Buckley
"The holy bible is my favourite album, it's the one I always turn too, every lyric is golden as are the earlier albums. He gave the manic street preachers early albums so much. I'm a massive fan, so I would say that though."
- Jill Cavanagh
"The original god like genius with a tortured soul R.I.P."
- Craig de Mello
"Edwards was just reaching his peak as lyricist, in the early days (along with Wire) his lyrics were full of outrageous bluster & I mean that in a good way, their outrageous conviction was what made them special. By the time of The Holy Bible his lyrics had become concise and, when delivered by Bradfield, terrifyingly angry. Anyone who would dismiss them a sub-sixth form, or even self-pitying has not read and understood that ultra self-aware is more the tone."
- Nicky Luna Laing
"A passionate, beautiful and talented man who has inspired me to become the person i am today through his lyrics, courage and intellegence. I got in to the Manics 6 years ago when i was 14 and no other band has influenced me nor taught me through music as much as they have. Richey and Nicky have genuinley helped me through the good times and dark times."
- Mike Atkinson
"All I can say really is that while he wasn't perfect by any means, he was deeply clever and has introduced me to a lot of the reading material and music that I love today, and my fandom of the Manics has brought me to a group of friends I truly adore."
- Alexis Hall
"I remember Richey as someone who was sensitive, perceptive, fiercely intelligent and beautiful; no man ever looked better in eyeliner! Both lyrically and in interviews he was always unflinchingly honest and very quotable. His lyrics are poetry, pure and simple and have lost none of their power or meaning over time. I believe The Holy Bible is not only the darkest album ever made but also a true example of music as an art form; full of expression and totally uncompromising. He is an inspiration to me in my own writing and helped me on my way to discovering many poets and writers. I can't think of any other rock star who made reading and learning into ideals in the way that Richey did. He is a true icon and I hope his memory lives on forever and all that he created continues to resonate with each new generation of music fans."
- Sarah Buddery
"An icon, a poet, an inspiration. A beautiful and talented man"
- Guby Wonka
"Probably the most brilliant, honest and sensitive lyricist with a huge conviction in the history of music."
- Ally McIntyre
"Easily the best lyricist of our time, responsible for widespread political and literary knowledge amongst teenagers"
- Black Velvet Magazine
"A beautiful tortured genius. Wish he was here to inspire the masses... but he always will no matter where he is."
- Georgina Langford
"A boy whose imagination was too great for this world."
- Prita Ayuthia
"Brilliant writer who was able to convey truth in such ways. Always made me want to search the meaning of the lyrics. His lyrics are a source of inspiration, they push us towards literature, knowledge and humanity to a greater extent. He is the most underrated lyricist ever! Intelligent, brilliant, erudite is not a big enough words to describe him"
"So much more than just a 'boy in a band', the best writer of the 90s and a great mind we still miss every single day."
- Alice Rosenthal
"Still one of the most important influences in my life and he hasn't been 'in' it for 17yrs. I miss what he'd have done."
- Maria Jose
"He means a lot to me, I'm so proud of being a manics fan"
- Andy Vale
"I think the biggest honour for Richey is that the Manics still leave his spot on the stage empty. Just in case..."
"Brilliant guitarist & songwriter, what a waste of talent."
- Simon Beer
"One of the best lyricists of the 90's. I remember him as the mastermind behind best Brit album of 90's, 'Holy Bible'."
- Jima A
"The social conscious of a time when everyone was killing ideology and making it into poetry at his own expense."
- Leah Fowler
"He's one of the most underrated lyricists of the twentieth century. He's a fucking genius."
- Elle Driver
"He means so much, the invisible but most important partner in a long period of my life. He helped me being sane again"
- Conor McGloin
"Richey and the Manics essentially changed my life. I read the short quotes in 'Generation Terrorists'. Got inspired. Started a band. Left a comprehensive school in Bolton aged 16 to follow that route. Ended up supporting the Manics at Brixton Academy aged 18 as well as touring all over. Split up aged 19. Still inspired by Richey and the Manics and their love of politics/philosophy - ended up going to Oxford Uni to read PPE. None of this would have happened if it wasn't for the burning intelligence of Richey Edwards. I reckon I'd still be in Bolton if I hadn't come across his work."
- Joseph Wicking
"The most intellectual songwriter of the 1990's, looked amazing on stage even if he couldn't play the guitar!"
- Hazel Bedson
"A truly inspiring lyricist. His references to leading literary & political figures enriched my teenage education"
- Debbie Jelinsky
"I remember him as a tortured soul, as well as an incredible person, great lyricist. Very intelligent and sensitive"
- Billy Mays
"He was inspirational, if not a mad bastard. His lyrical skills far surpasses that of today's standard!"
- Robert Peel
"A pure genius , born in the wrong era the current world never understood him & he never understood the world"
- Nicole Corrine
"A tragic shame for those of us who wish to have heard more from a man who wrote such genius lyrics."
"He proved that intelligence and eloquence can be important in rock & roll. He inspired me to speak up and stand out "
- Allison Sung
"He meant so much to me. Intelligent, sensitive, a true person in this big, nasty world but never been understood"
- Thomas Holmes
"I remember hearing 'Yes' for the first time. Lyrically, it was the most vulgar, beautiful, intelligent song I'd heard up until then. Listening to Richey's lyrics has always been an experience. They are caked in references and are literary to the fact where they are academic and brilliantly so."
- David Fairbrother
"Richey wrote the lyrics to my two favourite albums "The Holy Bible" and "Journal For Plague Lovers". He had a massive effect over the band and the music industry even though he couldn't play guitar to a high standard. He epitimised what a rock star should be, intellecutualy, artistic and influential."
- Karina Longo
"The so-called "scandals" are hardly the reason that makes Richey Edwards one of the most inspirational men in the rock'n'roll culture. His lyrics are as poignant as wounds, and as pretty as his "panda eyes" and clever DIY's. Richey made me realise that it's ok to write lyrics even though you can't play any instruments. He wasn't just a poet, he wasn't just a lyricist, a fashion icon, a revolutionary, guitarist or a tortured soul: for what it's worth, he was, and still is, Richey James Edwards, and I thank him forever for that."
- Char Coles
"A lyrical genius, and with this has indirectly helped me and so many others. Holy Bible is one of the best albums of all time, written with such passion and intelligence and I will always be extremely grateful for his lyrics"
- Amy Mcmullen
"Richey made me realise how important education is - he always spoke about wanting to better yourself, to improve your mind and perspective on the world. Whenever I feel down and despondant about studying, I think of what he used to say about it and it makes me want to carry on."
- Sophie Jane Paterson
"I wasn't at all surprised when he went AWOL and still miss him unto this day, but it only seemed to make the band stronger and they gained more success than ever after he went. I am very sure he's still alive somewhere and it was for the best for him. Fame was too much for somebody so fragile and vunerable."
- Rebekah Peace
"The moment I first saw a photograph of him, my life was changed."
- Molly Chard
"He was intelligent, controversial, and beautiful. He had a way with words like no other songwriter had, or ever will have. He may not have played the guitar very well, but his lyrics are absolutely beautiful and shocking at the same time. Manic Street Preachers are a band that like to push limits, music-wise and fashion-wise... and Richey was never afraid to do so. Richey James Edwards is an Icon, and he will always be remembered as one."
- Megan White
"A fragile, vulnerable, beautiful man. He should be remembered for his amazing lyrics, not his disappearance. The Holy Bible and Journal For Plague Lovers are stunning albums for the lyrics alone, even before James Dean Bradfield has turned them into musical masterpieces. He, unlike so many musicians, had something to say that mattered. I wasn't even born when he disappeared but his words changed mine and so many other people's lives and views on things."
- Laurence Howell
"The Holy Bible is my favourite album of all time, I think this was Richey at his best. He was a lyrical genius, some of the lyrics make him seem a bit nutty but they all showed his unbeliveable intelligence. Although he hardly ever had his guitar plugged in, he contributed so much more to the band and the rock music scene with aesthetics, lyrics and brilliant interviews. Him along with the other three manics are my idols."
- Nichola Carr
"The Manics were the first band I ever truly loved and are probably the last. I came to them after Richey had disappeared but I echo the thoughts that some have already expressed that without his visual aesthetic, searing intelligence and insight into even his own state of mind the Manics would not be the band they are now. If I hadn't discovered the Manics and Richey through friends and the glorious pages of the NME I would not have read half the books that I have or embraced my outsider-dom as a badge of honour rather than something to be ashamed of."
- Robert Hillman
"The Manic Street Preachers are four people who together have changed lives. Take any of those people away and the Manic Street Preachers don't exist. That's okay though, because Richey's still in them, loud as ever. So many bands have "lyricists" with nothing of value to say, people who just make words rhyme and fit into a vague pattern. It isn't really lyric writing, it's interior decor with a thesaurus. A Richey lyric wouldn't decorate your living room, it'd demolish the entire fucking house."
- Ellen Capel
"Richey James Edwards had a stunning, if a little disturbed, mind. But the greatest minds were disturbed, that's what makes a genius. Look at Vincent van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, Kurt Cobain... Icons, each and every one of them, and Richey is no exception... If it weren't for Richey, we wouldn't have one of the most influential bands of the last 30 years, because without his lyrics, they wouldn't have been shot to fame. He had everything a good rockstar should: the looks, the hair, the personality and the talent. Let's hope he comes home one day."
- Chuck Hargreaves
"The only man who could write groupsex in the Kremlin into song lyrics and make it all the way to Top Of The Pops"
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