Mar 07: The late Townes Van Zandt was born in 1944


“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)

If I Needed You:



Birth name John Townes Van Zandt
Born March 7, 1944
Fort Worth, Texas
Died January 1, 1997 (aged 52)
Smyrna, Tennessee
Genres Blues, folk, country
Occupations Musician, singer-songwriter, producer, arranger
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1965–1996
Labels Poppy, Tomato, Sugar Hill, TVZ, Fat Possum
Associated acts Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mickey Newbury, Steve Earle, Hemmer Ridge Mountain Boys, Guy Clark

John Townes Van Zandt 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,” “To Live is to Fly,” and “No Place to Fall” 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. When young, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and insulin shock therapy erased much of his long-term memory.

townes van zandt

Marie” on Solo Sessions, January 17, 1995:

Van Zandt died on New Years Day 1997 from health problems stemming from years of substance abuse. The 2000s saw a resurgence of interest in Van Zandt. During the decade, two books, a documentary film, and a number of magazine articles about the singer were created. Van Zandt’s music has been covered by such notable and varied musicians as Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Cowboy Junkies, Andrew Bird, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss  and Gillian Welch.

townes van zandt

Waitin’ Around To Die (from the GREAT film: “Heartworn Highway”):

heartworn highway

My top 10 TVZ songs:

  1. Kathleen (Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas)
  2. To Live Is To Fly (High, Low and in Between)
  3. Lungs (Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas)
  4. If I Needed You (Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas)
  5. Waitin’ Around To Die (Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas)
  6. Pancho & Lefty (Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas)
  7. Tecumseh Valley (Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas)
  8. A Song For (No Deeper Blue)
  9. Flyin’ Shoes (Flyin’ Shoes)
  10. Marie (No Deeper Blue)

Kathleen (Live at the Old Quarter):

Spotify Playlist:

Check out -> Hallgeir’s top 10 TVZ songs

Townes was the biggest single influence on my writing. Working around a poet like him, you learn not to throw away a phrase for a rhyme or a word for a pattern. You learn to keep your work clean.
~Guy Clark

 Album of the day:

Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas (1977)


Other March-07:

  • Peter Wolf (born Peter W. Blankfield; March 7, 1946) is an American Rhythm and Blues, Soul and Rock and Roll musician, best known as the lead vocalist for the J. Geils Band from 1967 to 1983; and for a successful musical solo career to date with writing partner Will Jennings.
  • Arthur Lee (March 7, 1945 – August 3, 2006) was the frontman, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of the Los Angeles rock band Love, best known for the critically acclaimed 1967 album, Forever Changes.

  • Bob Dylan recorded master versions of: Ring Them Bells & What Good am I ?  in 1989.