Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gram Parsons

Any Gram Parsons fans out there? He singlehandedly invented Country Rock, for good or ill. In his case it was mostly good. He wrote some great songs. The story of his life is quite interesting in its own right. He was a rich boy from the South. His father was a WWII flying ace named Coon Dog Connor and his mother was a Snively, a family of Citrus millionaires. His parents were both alcoholics. This is all in a very good BBC documentary from 2004 called "Fallen Angel: Gram Parsons". You can watch the complete film at this link.

Gram Parsons was kicked out of Harvard after one semester. He had a huge influence on the Byrds' album "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" and was a member of that band until he was fired for refusing to go on a tour to South Africa. He co-founded The Flying Burrito Brothers but was eventually fired for being completely unreliable. His unreliability was directly related to his enormous enthusiasm for every possible type of intoxicant. He had an intense bromance with Keith Richards. He had a possible romance with Emmylou Harris, but certainly had a great musical partnership with her which produced some of his best music. He overdosed on morphine and alcohol in1973 at the age of 26. After his death, his manager Phil Kaufman (not the director), and another friend, stole Parsons' body from the LA airport and drove it to Joshua Tree where the they did a bad job of cremating it. This last episode was recreated in a feature film with Johnny Knoxville playing Phil Kaufman. I think I'll pass on that.

Gram Parsons' Southern upbringing and love of Country music, mixed with his lifestyle, led to some excellent psychedelic-apocalyptic lyrics. This is from "Sin City":

"On the thirty-first floor
Your gold plated door
Won't keep out the Lord's burning rain."

How appropriate for our times.

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