“I’m trying to define the relationship between man and the universe,….. often it’s between man and man, or man and woman, or man and the cosmos. Whatever song comes through the door I’m happy with.… I’m lucky just to play the guitar and sing.”
~TVZ (on the purpose behind his songwriting)
“Figures like Townes Van Zandt remind us that the wandering bard, that American archetype, is still very much with us—and his music will live long after the voices that declare it in or out of fashion have been stilled or forgotten.”
~Robert Palmer (New York Times/Deep Blues/++)
“I lived in Fort Worth till I was 8, Midland till 9, Billings, Montana, till 12, Boulder, Colorado till 14, Chicago till 15 … Houston till I was 21. And then I started traveling.”
~TVZ (to Contemporary Musicians (CM) in 1992)
..You know, Dylan didn’t even talk to me for the whole first month we were on the road. I thought that’s how it was going to be, but he eventually started talking to me, the way that Dylan talks. We talked a lot after that, but did we ever have a conversation? I think not. [laughs] I don’t think that’s what it is. A lot of it has to do with my ideas about Bob Dylan. He’s fuckin’ Bob Dylan and I’m Steve Earle. We’re going to communicate differently, and what I think about Bob Dylan is as much who I am, just because of my job, what I do. I am who I am as much because of Bob Dylan as anybody. Just like what we had talked about Townes [Van Zandt]. Townes was fully aware that Bob Dylan invented his job. Make no mistake about that. I am, too.
~Steve Earle (pitchfork interview 2007)
“About 2:30 in the morning, Townes walked in, It was the first time I’d ever been in an environment with him where we weren’t separated by a microphone. And he had on this beautiful buckskin jacket. And Townes started a craps game and lost every dime that he had. And that jacket. Within 15 minutes. And I thought, ‘My hero.’ ”
~Steve Earle (npr music)
Steve Earle has covered Townes Van Zandt many times, even release an album with cover songs (“Townes” in 2009). Here is a collection of videos I found on youtube – Great stuff!
Hank Williams died in 1953 and Townes Van Zandt died in 1997
Hank Williams (September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953), born Hiram King Williams, is regarded as one of the most important country music artists of all time. Williams recorded 35 singles (five released posthumously) that would place in the Top 10 of the Billboard Country & Western Best Sellers chart, including 11 that ranked number one.Hank Williams died in 1953 and Townes Van Zandt died in 1997
John Townes Van Zandt (March 7, 1944 – January 1, 1997), best known as Townes Van Zandt, was an American Texas Country-folk music singer-songwriter, performer, and poet. Many of his songs, including “If I Needed You,” “To Live is to Fly,” and “No Place to Fall” are considered standards of their genre.
Marie she didn’t wake up this morning She didn’t even try She just rolled over and went to Heaven My little boy safe inside
I laid them in the sun where somebody’d find them Caught a Chesapeak on the fly Marie will know I’m headed south So’s to meet me by and by
Marie will know I’m headed south So to meet me by and by
– Townes Van Zandt
Townes Van Zandt is one of the greatest songwriters in music-history. To narrow down my choice to just 11 songs is a pain. His 9 studio albums, and some compilations released after his death in 97 are so full of great songs that my task has been nearly impossible. I could pick 11 other songs in his songbook that are just as good, but today this is my list.
Kurt Wolff (allmusic): Townes Van Zandt’s music doesn’t jump up and down, wear fancy clothes, or beat around the bush. Whether he was singing a quiet, introspective country-folk song or a driving, hungry blues, Van Zandt’s lyrics and melodies were filled with the kind of haunting truth and beauty that you knew instinctively. His music came straight from his soul by way of a kind heart, an honest mind, and a keen ear for the gentle blend of words and melody. He could bring you down to a place so sad that you felt like you were scraping bottom, but just as quickly he could lift your spirits and make you smile at the sparkle of a summer morning or a loved one’s eyes — or raise a chuckle with a quick and funny talking blues. The magic of his songs is that they never leave you alone.
The Best Songs: Tecumseh Valley by Townes Van Zandt
I first heard this song when Emmylou Harris sang it, then I heard Nanci Griffith’s version on the album, Other voices other rooms. Great interpretations both of them. It made me seek out Townes Van Zandt’s versions, they’re even better!
John Townes Van Zandt I (March 7, 1944 – January 1, 1997), best known as Townes Van Zandt, was an American singer-songwriter. Many of his songs, including “If I Needed You” and “To Live Is to Fly”, are considered standards of their genre.
While alive, Van Zandt had a small and devoted fanbase, but he never had a successful album or single and even had difficulty keeping his recordings in print. In 1983, six years after Emmylou Harris had first popularized it, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard covered his song “Pancho and Lefty,” scoring a number one hit on the Billboard country music charts. Despite achievements like these, the bulk of his life was spent touring various dive bars, often living in cheap motel rooms, backwoods cabins, and on friends’ couches. Van Zandt was notorious for his drug addictions, alcoholism, and his tendency to tell tall tales. (Wikipedia)
Early version from the album, For the sake of the song:
Late version (more like the one on Our Mother The Mountain):