Monday, May 19, 2008

On the Townes bio

If you´re a Townes Van Zandt fan, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of John Kruth´s recent biography To Live´s To Fly (now available in paperback from Da Capo Press). Subtitled The Ballad Of The Late Great Townes Van Zandt, it´s a long overdue look at the troubled singer-songwriter´s life and oeuvre. Kruth interviewed lots and lots of insiders along the way. Among them are Townes´ first and third wife, his kids, colleagues such as Guy Clarke, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Steve Earle and his longtime label boss Kevin Eggers, a huckster you really wished Townes had never met. Only makes you wonder if the Texas bard would have had more commercial succes with a bona fide manager or record label... 

It´s no surprise a Townes biography contains tons of anecdotes about his drinking, gambling, drifting and womanizing ways. We find him giving away his money to kids in Mexico and buying bums in back alleys a fifth of wodka. We see him drinking a bottle of codeine cough syrup - aka Delta Momma - ad fundum while still in the pharmacy where he bought the stuff, ceremoniously putting the empty bottle back on the counter. And there he is losing everything but his underpants in a crap game, walking away laughing. We also learn Townes came from a wealthy background and a rich southern heritage, and that his concerned parents had him institutionalized for a while (including electro shock therapy!) when he decided to give up a respectable career for the sake of the song. And we find him torn between his family on one side, his muse on the other and the road and the bottle somewhere inbetween. 

Reason enough to pick up a copy of To Live´s To Fly methinks. Kruth´s writing style can be a bit breathless at times, and as an interviewer he´s sometimes afraid to ask the really tough questions. No wonder if a drunken Guy Clark is playing with a knife when you´re interrogating him, but still... On the whole we have to thank him though for finally setting the record straight on one of the undisputed geniuses of American song.

The following tracks are from Delta Momma Blues (´71, reissued on the Charly label).

Townes Van Zandt - Where I Lead Me MP3
Townes Van Zandt - Brand New Companion MP3
Townes Van Zandt - Tower Song MP3

3 comments:

Otherwise Unavailable said...

Good blog. I coincedentally finished that book last week. Great read. I've taken a couple tracks from you, thanks for supplying.

Bent said...

If you get a chance you might want to also check out Robert Earl Hardy's A Deeper Blue which seems to be a better written book...

Ramone666 said...

Will do Bent, never even knew another book on Townes existed.