Friday, November 25, 2011

The Hickory Wind



I am slightly disappointed, though not surprised, that no one has ever asked what the title of the blog refers to. The cognoscenti of Cosmic American Music will know, and why would anyone else be interested?

It may be right, it may be wrong, but it's Rock'n'Roll
Hickory Wind was arguably the most emblematic song of Gram Parsons, and is a painful expression of longing for a lost past. Parsons was born Cecil Ingram Connor and revolutionised both country and rock in the early 70’s by writing songs and performing them in ways that no one else dared to do. He was a tortured musical genius (or a self-absorbed trustafarian junkie, depending on your point of view), who discovered Emmylou Harris, taught the Byrds how to make real music, taught the Stones how to do country, and died at 26 of a heroin overdose (of course) leaving a small but influential legacy, and a musical landscape transformed.

For years I planned to get a tattoo in his honour, but I couldn’t come with a way of conceptualising the hickory wind in a unobtrusive doodle. When I finally had an idea I was happy with, Mrs Hickory vetoed it because it involved a tombstone and it gave her the creeps. In any case there is a time and an age for that sort of thing, and I left it behind some time ago.

I have always been a fan of North American music, from cowboy songs to western swing and Appalachian folk, from Tex-Mex to Cajun and zaideco, from Green Grow the Rushes to George Gershwin, including southern jazz and blues played by old black men on the steps of their house, which is about as authentic as music can get. My favourite is the rough, tough Texan stuff, like Steve Earle, Guy Clark, Townes van Zant, Kevin Welch, Terry Allen, and we can add Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Ed Bruce and George Jones when they allowed to make music instead of money. Gram Parsons doesn’t fit in there, but he was a one-off, like Tom Waits. It’s a million miles from Nashville, and all that commercial syrup that has given country music such a bad name.

3 comments:

Vincent said...

I had wondered about it but assumed it was in reference to some Spanish forest of hickory trees which had caught your fancy. And as for CIngram, I did not like to ask. Names are too personal.

I have heard of this Gram Parsons on the radio, but that's as far as it goes.

Vincent said...

I've now listened to "Hickory Wind" on YouTube. You've almost inspired me to change the name of my blog to "Where d'you think you're going?" in honour of the song by Dire Straits.

CIngram said...

I've varied my name at different times in the past as a way of trying to define my identity in some way.

But in the end you are who you are, and other people know it, however much you try to fool yourself.

Something I thought of adding to my post the other day about why I blog, but didn't, was about how we craft a title, a pseudonym, a design, a style, a persona, for our blogs, and then in every line we write we reveal who we really are.

I still like playing around with names, though. Even the email address on the profile page isn't quite my real name, although it would serve to find me. And the URL of the blog isn't eaxctly the same as the title.