Thirty six years ago today, Gram Parsons made a prat of himself for the final time, at the Joshua Tree motel in the desert of California. The mess he made of his life is a pity, as he could was from a wealthy family and could have done anything he wanted, and his finest music was made a few months before he died. But his family was also very messy, and drugs and music were a way of trying to turn it into something better.
Death, on the other hand, froze him in early youth, and froze his music at a point that has served as a reference for many more successful singers and songwriters. He gave us Emmylou Harris, the Eagles, Wilco, The Byrds, Sheryl Crow and countless others. I'm pretty sure he also influenced the origins of punk, but maybe we aren't so grateful for that.
The stories are well known, hanging out with Keith Richards, joining, transforming and leaving the Byrds, opening for the Grateful Dead, fighting with everyone he ever sang with, walking out on record companies, taking off on the motorbike without warning, and dying with an icecube up his backside and having his body stolen and burnt in the desert. But the songs were what mattered, and they still are. Who can listen to $1000 Wedding or Brass Buttons without getting goosebumps?
Sharper readers of this blog will already have noticed I'm a bit of a fan. If you are too, let us bow our heads and put Grievous Angel on the CD. If you're not, or don't even know what I'm talking about, normal service will be resumed shortly.
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