August 29, 2012


Watch This Now: New Doc on Country-Rock Legend Gram Parsons

If you don't know about Gram Parsons, well, you should, and BBC is here to help with a new documentary about the country-rock legend, called Fallen Angel. Watch above.

For the uninitiated: Gram Parsons was a one-time member of the Byrds and later the frontman of the Flying Burrito Brothers, a late-'60s/early-'70s band that bridged old-school Nashville country (think Buck Owens, George Jones, etc.) with the rock n' roll and hippie swagger of the era. He was also a close confidant of the Rolling Stones, particularly Keith Richards, and had a profound influence on their music (see: "Wild Horses," which Parsons allegedly helped write and later covered). Oh, and Emmylou Harris? Her career is thanks to Parsons, who discovered, developed and recorded with the country singer-songwriter in the early-'70s. Parsons wrote and recorded "cosmic American music," the songwriter himself once said, and it's also seen in the DNA of '70s L.A. country-rock bands like the Eagles. 

Parsons is as renowned for his music, including classics like "$1000 Wedding," as he was for his lifestyle: His Southern family had legendary alcohol problems (his mom died from drinking booze in the hospital, where she was dying from liver cirrhosis. Her husband, who later died of liver cirrhosis himself, allegedly delivered the alcohol). Parsons was also Keef's heroin and songwriting buddy (much to Mick Jagger's chagrin) in the south of France, where the Stones were recording their classic Exile on Main Street

But, sadly, he's perhaps most notorious for his death; after he passed from alcohol and morphine overdose in 1973 in Joshua Tree National Park in SoCal, his buddies stole his body from LAX, where it was scheduled to be shipped home to his family in Louisiana for burial. Acting on Parsons' wish to be creamated in Joshua Tree, his drunken pals drove the corpse to Joshua Tree, poured five gallons of gasoline into the open coffin and threw in a lit match. Cops gave chase and they left 35 lbs of Parsons' charred remains in the desert. They were arrested days later, but as there was no law against stealing a dead body, they were only fined $750 for stealing the coffin. The melee was documented in the Johnny Knoxville-starring 2003 film Grand Theft Parsons.

Gram Parsons is an integral (must I repeat?), if under-appreciated, cornerstone of rock, country, and country-rock history. Get hip. Like Band of Horses? What about Dawes? Blitzen Trapper? Kings of Leon? Mumford & Sons? They, and many more, all owe Parsons a bow. Watch the doc above, and listen to a few of his best songs below.