Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Late Great Gram Parsons

It has been nothing short of a very busy day and I will not let it pass without honoring Graham Parsons, one of the founding members of country rock.

Parsons in 1972

Gram Parsons spent his brief musical life searching for what he called "cosmic American music," a sound emerging out of gospel, R&B, country and rock traditions. He was born on this day in 1946 into a wealthy Florida family, a circumstance that encouraged both his exploration of music and the drug abuse that killed him in 1973 (September 17). Parsons performed with The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers before attempting a rocky solo career that went nowhere until he met a young singer in Washington, D.C. Her name was Emmylou Harris. Parsons soon partnered with Harris and they went on to produce some of the finest sounds from the early fusion days of country and folk-rock. With his passing, one of American music's greatest inventors was stilled, but others, including Emmylou, would use his inventions and adapt them over the next forty years into the country rock music we know today.

Here is some music to help you understand the history. The first recording is a Gram Parsons-Bob Buchanan song that appeared on The Byrds album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, released in 1968. The Byrds went deep into classic country here and introduced Parsons to a rock audience.

Here's a Parsons-Chris Hillman song, dating from 1969 and the days of The Flying Burrito Brothers. Parsons can be identified by his marijuana leaf Nudie suit.

For a Gram Parsons bio, visit this link. For a longer immersion in his world and music go to David Meyer's 2008 biography.
Parsons's body met with a notable and very illegal cremation in the hills of Joshua Tree National Park. For the story, go here. Room 8 at the Joshua Tree Inn, the location of his death, is now a shrine and the destination of a pilgrimage for many of his fans. Here is a post from some recent visitors.

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