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Gram Parsons lived fast, died young, and left a beautiful corpse–a corpse his friends stole, took to Joshua Tree National Monument, and set afire in its coffin. The theft and burning of his body marked the end of Gram Parsons’ life and the beginning of the Gram Parsons legend. As a singer and songwriter, Gram Parsons stood at the nexus of countless musical crossroads, and h Gram Parsons lived fast, died young, and left a beautiful corpse–a corpse his friends stole, took to Joshua Tree National Monument, and set afire in its coffin. The theft and burning of his body marked the end of Gram Parsons’ life and the beginning of the Gram Parsons legend. As a singer and songwriter, Gram Parsons stood at the nexus of countless musical crossroads, and he sold his soul to the devil at every one. Parson hung out with glamorous women and the coolest friends. His intimates and collaborators on his journey included Keith Richards, William Burroughs, Marianne Faithfull, Peter Fonda, Roger McGuinn, Clarence White, and Emmylou Harris. Parsons had everything–looks, charisma, money, style, the best drugs, the most heartbreaking voice–and threw it all away with both hands. His ballad is one of gigantic talent colliding with epic self-destruction. Parsons led the Byrds to create the seminal country rock masterpiece Sweetheart of the Rodeo. He formed the Flying Burrito Brothers, helped to guide the Rolling Stones beyond the blues in their appreciation of American roots music, and found his musical soul mate in Emmylou Harris. Parsons’ solo albums, GP and Grievous Angel, are now recognized as visionary masterpieces of the transcendental jambalaya of rock, soul, country, gospel, and blues Parsons named “Cosmic American Music.” Four months before Grievous Angel was released, Parsons died of a drug and alcohol overdose at age twenty-six. In this beautifully written, raucous, meticulously researched biography, David N. Meyer gives Parsons’ mythic life its due. From Parsons’ privileged Southern Gothic upbringing to his early career in Greenwich Village’s folk music scene to his Sunset Strip glory days, Twenty Thousand Roads paints an unprecedented portrait of the man who linked country to rock. Parsons’ creative genius gave birth to a new sound that was rooted in the past but heralded the future. From interviews with hundreds of the famous and obscure who knew and worked closely with Parsons–many who have never spoken publicly about him before–Meyer conjures a dazzling panorama of the artist and his era. Shedding new light and dispelling old myths, Twenty Thousand Roads is a breakthrough in rock-and-roll biography and more–a chronicle of creativity, drugs, excess, culture, and music in the ferment of late-1960s America. Visit the official website: www.twentythousandroads.com From the Hardcover edition.


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Gram Parsons lived fast, died young, and left a beautiful corpse–a corpse his friends stole, took to Joshua Tree National Monument, and set afire in its coffin. The theft and burning of his body marked the end of Gram Parsons’ life and the beginning of the Gram Parsons legend. As a singer and songwriter, Gram Parsons stood at the nexus of countless musical crossroads, and h Gram Parsons lived fast, died young, and left a beautiful corpse–a corpse his friends stole, took to Joshua Tree National Monument, and set afire in its coffin. The theft and burning of his body marked the end of Gram Parsons’ life and the beginning of the Gram Parsons legend. As a singer and songwriter, Gram Parsons stood at the nexus of countless musical crossroads, and he sold his soul to the devil at every one. Parson hung out with glamorous women and the coolest friends. His intimates and collaborators on his journey included Keith Richards, William Burroughs, Marianne Faithfull, Peter Fonda, Roger McGuinn, Clarence White, and Emmylou Harris. Parsons had everything–looks, charisma, money, style, the best drugs, the most heartbreaking voice–and threw it all away with both hands. His ballad is one of gigantic talent colliding with epic self-destruction. Parsons led the Byrds to create the seminal country rock masterpiece Sweetheart of the Rodeo. He formed the Flying Burrito Brothers, helped to guide the Rolling Stones beyond the blues in their appreciation of American roots music, and found his musical soul mate in Emmylou Harris. Parsons’ solo albums, GP and Grievous Angel, are now recognized as visionary masterpieces of the transcendental jambalaya of rock, soul, country, gospel, and blues Parsons named “Cosmic American Music.” Four months before Grievous Angel was released, Parsons died of a drug and alcohol overdose at age twenty-six. In this beautifully written, raucous, meticulously researched biography, David N. Meyer gives Parsons’ mythic life its due. From Parsons’ privileged Southern Gothic upbringing to his early career in Greenwich Village’s folk music scene to his Sunset Strip glory days, Twenty Thousand Roads paints an unprecedented portrait of the man who linked country to rock. Parsons’ creative genius gave birth to a new sound that was rooted in the past but heralded the future. From interviews with hundreds of the famous and obscure who knew and worked closely with Parsons–many who have never spoken publicly about him before–Meyer conjures a dazzling panorama of the artist and his era. Shedding new light and dispelling old myths, Twenty Thousand Roads is a breakthrough in rock-and-roll biography and more–a chronicle of creativity, drugs, excess, culture, and music in the ferment of late-1960s America. Visit the official website: www.twentythousandroads.com From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bennie

    As a huge Gram Parsons, and "cosmic American music" fan in general, I've read a few Gram Parsons biogs. This one is the most insightful and thorough. It fills in a lot of gaps that were left from readings of other GP books, such as the brilliant Hickory Wind by Ben Fong Torres (which is a brilliantly written book by a great rock journalist). It doesn't hold back; yes, Gram was a little rich kid, yes, he wanted to be a superstar, yes, he came from a self-destructive family, yes, he killed his own As a huge Gram Parsons, and "cosmic American music" fan in general, I've read a few Gram Parsons biogs. This one is the most insightful and thorough. It fills in a lot of gaps that were left from readings of other GP books, such as the brilliant Hickory Wind by Ben Fong Torres (which is a brilliantly written book by a great rock journalist). It doesn't hold back; yes, Gram was a little rich kid, yes, he wanted to be a superstar, yes, he came from a self-destructive family, yes, he killed his own talent. It doesn't shy away from these aspects of the man, so it paints a fuller portrait of the man who created what is regarded as the first country-rock (alt.country, alternative country, cosmic american music, americana...) record: Safe at Home by The International Submarine Band. It should be on the bookshelf of any Gram Parsons or country fan, as well as any fan of the musician/rock band biography.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mike Lindgren

    It took Gram Parsons just over six years to change the face of American music. Parsons brought fresh force to country tradition with the International Submarine Band, remade the Byrds in his own image on the classic Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, founded the Flying Burrito Brothers, and recorded two solo albums of aching beauty, all before his death in 1973. Along the way, he taught the Rolling Stones about country music, discovered Emmylou Harris singing in a nightclub in Washington D. C., wrote a ha It took Gram Parsons just over six years to change the face of American music. Parsons brought fresh force to country tradition with the International Submarine Band, remade the Byrds in his own image on the classic Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, founded the Flying Burrito Brothers, and recorded two solo albums of aching beauty, all before his death in 1973. Along the way, he taught the Rolling Stones about country music, discovered Emmylou Harris singing in a nightclub in Washington D. C., wrote a handful of songs — “Sin City”, “Hickory Wind”, “Brass Buttons” — that stand as classics of down-home American soul, and, by all accounts, ingested more alcohol, cocaine, and heroin than seems possible. It would be hard to overstate his influence on country, alt-country, Americana, roots music, and all their permutations. Despite his towering legacy, the most complete biography Parsons has received until now is Ben Fong-Torres’s well-intentioned but slapdash Hickory Wind (1991). Fong-Torres has a keen sense of Parsons’s music, but he scrambles to keep track of the myriad musicians and scenesters who moved in Parsons’s orbit, and his narrative feels choppy and rushed. With Twenty Thousand Roads, Parsons has finally received a book equal to his musical accomplishments and outsized personality. David N. Meyer’s biography is an exceptional piece of research and writing, lucid and penetrating about the music, fair-minded yet tough about Parsons’s shortcomings and wasted potential. Meyer has tracked down and interviewed hundreds of Parsons’s associates, some of whom have never spoken on the record before, and his synthesis of these sources is fluid and absorbing. Meyer has gone farther than anyone else in understanding the roots of Parsons’s self-destructive tendencies, tracing them to his upbringing in a rich Southern family haunted by suicide and alcoholism. He also debunks many of the myths that have grown up around Parsons, and provides as objective an account of Parsons’s doomed last night at the Joshua Tree Inn and its notorious aftermath as we will ever have. For the most part, Meyer’s analysis of Parsons’s music is articulate and perceptive, with the exception of his dismissal of the Fallen Angels, the pickup band that toured with Parsons in 1973 (Meyer faults drummer N. D. Smart for his inability “to play anything other than a 4/4 shuffle,” even though Smart’s drumming on the waltz-time “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man” is sprightly and swinging). Meyer’s book is otherwise especially illuminating about the technical aspects of the music Gram made his own, whether explaining the difference between Nashville and Bakersfield country or discussing the intricacies of pedal-steel guitar playing. As a bonus, the book includes a comprehensive and often droll (Keith Richards is identified as “the only man who can play a Chuck Berry song worse than Chuck Berry”) encyclopedia of Parsons’ contemporaries. The true strength of Twenty Thousand Roads, however, is its insight into how Parsons’s demons and excesses were inextricably linked to the greatness of his music. Meyer is clear-eyed and occasionally brutal about Parsons’ drug use, wobbly work ethic, and callow self-absorption, but he refuses to romanticize his subject’s excesses or exploit them for prurient effect. In the end, Meyer’s book betrays a deep sense of sadness over what could have been. That sadness is part of what made Gram Parsons’s music so moving. It is also part of what killed him. From NO DEPRESSION magazine, November 2007

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Gram Parsons had the looks and the attitude more suited for Motley Crue than for a country artist, but he nevertheless was one of the first country rock pioneers. David Meyer's biography on Mr. Parsons is very entertaining so far. I'm on the chapter where he's joined The Byrds, and Meyer makes The Byrds sound like a pit full of rattlesnakes. So, several reviews here have discussed what a spoiled brat Parsons was, but my review isn't on his over-indulgent behavior but rather on the biographer's w Gram Parsons had the looks and the attitude more suited for Motley Crue than for a country artist, but he nevertheless was one of the first country rock pioneers. David Meyer's biography on Mr. Parsons is very entertaining so far. I'm on the chapter where he's joined The Byrds, and Meyer makes The Byrds sound like a pit full of rattlesnakes. So, several reviews here have discussed what a spoiled brat Parsons was, but my review isn't on his over-indulgent behavior but rather on the biographer's well researched and thorough job on Parsons' life. My favorite part was where even Keith Richards found Parsons to be too strung out/unmanageable and had him bounced from his French villa. That's show biz. Tell it to Brian Jones.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Spiros

    "Whole family like Tennessee Williams play." - Khan Souphinousinphone, "King of the Hill" Gram Parsons was a prodigy, a man in a hurry. In 26 years on this planet, he left behind a daughter, a widow, countless broken relationships and personal betrayals, and still managed to outlive both his parents. He suffered two artistically fallow periods in his career, consumed an ungodly amount of booze and pills and powders (he couldn't choose his medicine, evidently), and managed to turn a brilliant song "Whole family like Tennessee Williams play." - Khan Souphinousinphone, "King of the Hill" Gram Parsons was a prodigy, a man in a hurry. In 26 years on this planet, he left behind a daughter, a widow, countless broken relationships and personal betrayals, and still managed to outlive both his parents. He suffered two artistically fallow periods in his career, consumed an ungodly amount of booze and pills and powders (he couldn't choose his medicine, evidently), and managed to turn a brilliant songwriting ability to virtually no commercial account: in his lifetime, he received exactly one royalty check. He also left behind four brilliant albums: The Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo, The Flying Burrito Brothers' Gilded Palace of Sin, and two solo efforts. His influence is harder to peg, but no less valuable. He is credited with pushing The Rolling Stones into their country inflected, '70's material; I think that by the time Gram swam into their ambit, Keith and Mick (having ditched Brian Jones) had realized that psychedelia had pretty much run into a dead end for them with Their Satanic Majesties Request, and were already moving towards American roots music, beyond the Chicago blues that shaped them. Gram is also credited with "discovering" Emmylou Harris, and nurturing her talent; with that voice, somebody surely would have noticed her, but absent Gram's love of country, perhaps she would have stayed at the level of a Judy Collins or a Joan Baez. And he's credited with inventing outlaw and "alt. Country", which he didn't; Willie, Waylon and the boys were already setting up shop in Austin. But still, he certainly had a major impact in all three of these developments, and for chrissakes, he was only 26 when he died. This book is certainly exhaustive and well written, and might deserve a fifth star for this epic takedown of my co-least favorite (tied with Hall & Oates) band of all time: 'Eagles drummer Don Henley said of himself: "I have a high tolerance for repetition." Gram lacked this quality. Henley's abundance of it helped provide the Eagles' music with its soulless, overrehearsed, antiseptic, schematic, insincere, sentimental core. The Eagles managed to deny every roots-music source of their sound. Their country rock - with its self-satisfaction, misogyny, absence of pain, junior high emotions, pop hooks, and facile faux virtuosity - was more than dumb enough to please the broadest American audience. And still is. The Eagles were and remain arguably the most consistently contemptible stadium band in rock. Gram famously referred to their music as "a plastic dry-fuck." He bore the Eagles a special loathing, as any sane listener might.' To which I can only add: Fuckin' a.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    This book haunts me. The author exhaustively researched Parsons' tragic life, from birth to death. The story begins with his tragic family - a father's suicide when Gram was just 12 years old, an alcoholic mother, a very wealthy southern upbringing, etc. The book is also a chronicle of the music scene in the late 60s/early 70s. To me, it was a tragedy of a man with a vision who couldn't get out of his own way. He was self-destructive, but gifted. I have always believed that Parsons doesn't get t This book haunts me. The author exhaustively researched Parsons' tragic life, from birth to death. The story begins with his tragic family - a father's suicide when Gram was just 12 years old, an alcoholic mother, a very wealthy southern upbringing, etc. The book is also a chronicle of the music scene in the late 60s/early 70s. To me, it was a tragedy of a man with a vision who couldn't get out of his own way. He was self-destructive, but gifted. I have always believed that Parsons doesn't get the credit he deserves, but it may be that while his peers respected his talent, they also despised the fact that he was a liability to himself and everyone around him. The biggest shame is that he met the perfect partner in Emmylou Harris and had just begun to explore that partnership. I really believe that he would have become a legend if they had the opportunity for more collaboration. If you've never heard their take on "Love Hurts", get thee to youtube and check it out. It is hauntingly beautiful. I suggest that you have Parsons music handy while you are reading this book. The author gives the most incredible information on almost a song-by-song basis. I find myself using the book as a reference when listening to the music. For that reason, this is one book I am going to keep for a while. It is an encyclopedia of Parsons work that is a perfect accompanimate to his music.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    "As a capper, Dylan obsoleted the whole idea of folk authenticity by turning into a rocker..." Surely a labour of love but more repetitive than a drunk at a shotgun wedding. "As a capper, Dylan obsoleted the whole idea of folk authenticity by turning into a rocker..." Surely a labour of love but more repetitive than a drunk at a shotgun wedding.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    This book is up around five hundred pages. It took me a long time to read, as it is very dense with facts. Most of the facts are salacious and fun, like details about Keith Richards unmatched drug use, or what band spawned what band because of what bitchy little argument. I found the whole thing fascinating, but I missed Gram in there somehow. I don't blame the author for this. He interviewed everyone who ever knew the guy, and both sides of his family. He is SO thorough. I just get the impressi This book is up around five hundred pages. It took me a long time to read, as it is very dense with facts. Most of the facts are salacious and fun, like details about Keith Richards unmatched drug use, or what band spawned what band because of what bitchy little argument. I found the whole thing fascinating, but I missed Gram in there somehow. I don't blame the author for this. He interviewed everyone who ever knew the guy, and both sides of his family. He is SO thorough. I just get the impression that no one ever really knew him. I don't even know if he had a real "self" to know. He's an admitted liar, and while charming, a seeming deadbeat dad and terrible mate (I would like to have known more about what has become of his only daughter.) Happily, I now know that he is at least not to blame for the bastardization of country into "southern rock" (and as a bonus, the author/Gram hate the Eagles as much as I do. Maybe more.) If you look at this book as a musical history of the sixties and seventies, however (especially of the folk/country/rock intersection), you can't beat it. I learned a lot!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm Pellettier

    Holy shneiki, was this boy a mess. I did not quite appreciate what a selfish bastard he was, both professionally and personally. Positively makes Neil Young look solicitous by comparison. Sadly, though, my favourite Harvard trustafarian made the fatal mistake of trying to keep up with Keef's olympian intake. Rather (in)famously, both John Philips and Keef were worried about his intake/habits?!, which pretty much says it all. There are still tales, whether apocryphal or not, of tapes somewhere co Holy shneiki, was this boy a mess. I did not quite appreciate what a selfish bastard he was, both professionally and personally. Positively makes Neil Young look solicitous by comparison. Sadly, though, my favourite Harvard trustafarian made the fatal mistake of trying to keep up with Keef's olympian intake. Rather (in)famously, both John Philips and Keef were worried about his intake/habits?!, which pretty much says it all. There are still tales, whether apocryphal or not, of tapes somewhere containing Philips, Gram and Keef jammin, plus probably all of Delaney and Bonnies' "friends," ie the whole mad dog and englishmen crew. Do we really wanna hear these? apparently no one could stand. Let's just say that I think the music industry's changed somewhat, since this time. On the bright side, we've had Emmylou for the past 40 years.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Helen Robare

    This book had, in my opinion, a lot of unnecessary information. If you like your biographies to include the entire lineage of the subject you will definitely like this book. I did not expect this book to contain every tiny little bit of information about Gram Parsons and his family but it did. While it was also interesting to read about the types of music and the artists that Gram was involved with, there was just too much information. Some of the information was interesting but a lot of it was This book had, in my opinion, a lot of unnecessary information. If you like your biographies to include the entire lineage of the subject you will definitely like this book. I did not expect this book to contain every tiny little bit of information about Gram Parsons and his family but it did. While it was also interesting to read about the types of music and the artists that Gram was involved with, there was just too much information. Some of the information was interesting but a lot of it was unnecessary. I can see where the author did a thorough research of Gram's life and for that he is to be commended. I'm a pretty fast reader and I had to force myself to finish the book. I gave it four stars because of the effort that the author put into it and because I did learn some things I did not know. However, I don't think I'll be re-reading it anytime soon.

  10. 5 out of 5

    False

    Born into wealth. Died wealthy, all from his mother's citrus grove money of the Snivelys. Never developed, lived a louche lifestyle, even as a child/teen. Had lousy friends, to say the least. Both parents, including a stepfather, all alcoholics. Father a suicide. Why seek ambition when everything has been given to you? His life was one car wreck after another. And that burned at Joshua Tree story is highly disturbing. Friends opening his coffin to mock his penis size and flick his nose before po Born into wealth. Died wealthy, all from his mother's citrus grove money of the Snivelys. Never developed, lived a louche lifestyle, even as a child/teen. Had lousy friends, to say the least. Both parents, including a stepfather, all alcoholics. Father a suicide. Why seek ambition when everything has been given to you? His life was one car wreck after another. And that burned at Joshua Tree story is highly disturbing. Friends opening his coffin to mock his penis size and flick his nose before pouring gasoline over him and running away? Shaking head. File it under: What a waste.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marci

    I'll let you know. But, it is the third or fourth Gram Parsons' bio I have read/own. I will never get sick of hearing different people's perspective of him or hearing about the times he spent with people. I'll let you know. But, it is the third or fourth Gram Parsons' bio I have read/own. I will never get sick of hearing different people's perspective of him or hearing about the times he spent with people.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Casey

    A bit too heavy on the mechanics of music for my taste. Lots of dissecting of lyrics, details of the process, and personal opinions and critiques. It was entertaining, but I found myself skipping through the repetitive stuff

  13. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    The rehabilitation of Gram Parsons the musician, one of the popularly under-appreciated influences that emerged from the maelstrom of the 1960's musical scene, is unquestioned. Without Gram, The Byrds would not have recorded "Sweethearts of the Rodeo" and the incongruously named Flying Burrito Brothers would have never released their "Gilded Palace of Sin," two shockingly country roots albums with rock/pop sensibilities that foreshadowed the emergence of the alt. country scene in the 1990's that The rehabilitation of Gram Parsons the musician, one of the popularly under-appreciated influences that emerged from the maelstrom of the 1960's musical scene, is unquestioned. Without Gram, The Byrds would not have recorded "Sweethearts of the Rodeo" and the incongruously named Flying Burrito Brothers would have never released their "Gilded Palace of Sin," two shockingly country roots albums with rock/pop sensibilities that foreshadowed the emergence of the alt. country scene in the 1990's that popularized bands like Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt and Whiskeytown, as well as solo artists like Steve Earle - all artists that cite Parsons's influence. Gram's solo efforts introduced the music world to Emmylou Harris, at the time an obscure folk singer in the Washington D.C. suburbs, and Parson's choices for studio musicians mirrored Harris's Hot Band of the 70's. Gram was also narcissistic, entitled, spoiled, and rendered incoherent and unable to function for large parts of his brief adult life by drug abuse at a level that concerned his friend Keith Richards enough that he thought Gram needed help. (As the author notes, when Keith Richards thinks you need help, you are in trouble.) Gram's debauched family life, heavy on the alcohol and living off a small family fortune, did little to provide a positive support direction, and his father's suicide certainly contributed to his erratic behavior. On albums and at gigs his bandmates would pull the plug from his amp because he played the guitar so badly. He walked away from bands on the verge of breaking big, he alienated nearly every musician he worked with (that included a laundry list of the best studio and band musicians in Los Angeles and Nashville), and generally threw away his talent through a lack of anything resembling a work ethic. Yet, having been born to money, he largely got away with it all (except for his end), provoking resentment and schadenfreude at his rapid collapse. The story of his death and impromptu cremation is the stuff of rock and roll legend. David Meyer tells this story well, with plenty of interviews of those people still among the living. However, a lot of historical imprecision exists because everyone involved in this story was more or less stoned at the time. Also, some of the principals, like Emmylou Harris and Parsons's mother's family, have vested interests in viewing these events in a certain context and through a certain lens - Harris, in fact, based her early career and marketing brand off of her relationship with Parsons. Now with the status of a music industry survivor and legend in her own right, she has no use for talking with Parsons's biographers and re-hashing her memories. If you are interested in Parsons's music and the birth of the alt. country scene, this book contains many neat stories. However, Parsons is too messed up to even serve as a cautionary tale. Even the author acknowledges as much. Every great musical achievement is tempered by a critical assessment. The Flying Burrito Brothers' "Gilded Palace of Sin" is noted as one of the most influential records in rock and roll history, appearing in a seminal Rolling Stone listing, yet "Among all the records that remain such major influences on the course of American rock and roll, Gilded Palace is the most shoddily produced." (p.316) I read this to achieve a greater appreciation for the music scene that developed into alt. country, and for that purpose it fit the bill.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bradley Finbow

    Great but,troubled artist.

  15. 4 out of 5

    James

    This is a remarkably comprehensive biography of musician Gram Parsons. I will not say much about Parsons in these comments: there is not much to add to the illuminating and heartfelt words written by over a thousand fellow reviewers. I did find this volume to be remarkably judgmental at times, and while the judgments often seemed apt, they occasionally grated on my nerves. For example, praise is heaped on the Rolling Stones for how their albums were produced. This was a first for me since everyo This is a remarkably comprehensive biography of musician Gram Parsons. I will not say much about Parsons in these comments: there is not much to add to the illuminating and heartfelt words written by over a thousand fellow reviewers. I did find this volume to be remarkably judgmental at times, and while the judgments often seemed apt, they occasionally grated on my nerves. For example, praise is heaped on the Rolling Stones for how their albums were produced. This was a first for me since everyone I know singles out the classic Stones for some of the worst production in rock and roll. Their music sounded good in spite of the production. Other lapses in judgment have been mentioned various reviews on this site. Nevertheless, when looking at this book overall, it is a stunning achievement that offers new insight and detail about Parsons’ life and music. Whether I agree with all of the authors’ opinions is irrelevant; I have been enriched by the tirelessly researched and meticulously quilted timelines and conflicting accounts that are presented and, in some cases, debunked. This is a ”must read” for fans of country music, Gram Parsons, and all of the subgenres of related American music.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark Lindahl

    Well worth the time. Following a description of Parsons spontaneous singing of the hymn "Farther Along" at the graveside of former bandmate Clarence White, the author provides this key insight: "The moment crystallized why Gram Parsons is a legendary figure and should be. Grief-stricken, irritated by the priest, heartbroken over Clarence White’s death, and loaded on pills, liquor, and likely heroin, Gram remained the one person at the grave who knew how to illuminate that precious moment. When all Well worth the time. Following a description of Parsons spontaneous singing of the hymn "Farther Along" at the graveside of former bandmate Clarence White, the author provides this key insight: "The moment crystallized why Gram Parsons is a legendary figure and should be. Grief-stricken, irritated by the priest, heartbroken over Clarence White’s death, and loaded on pills, liquor, and likely heroin, Gram remained the one person at the grave who knew how to illuminate that precious moment. When all around him were paralyzed—and when all were likely far more competent in day-to-day problem-solving than Gram—Gram alone understood what the soul of the moment required. He understood the poetry necessaryto deal with the pain. With his own profound connection to grief and loss, Gram understood how to grant the assembled throng catharsis, and Clarence White release." I also appreciated the description of the musical/soulful bond between Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons. Even in the most dissipated, stoned life there is a soul that can still retain beauty.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Stewart

    This book is a heartbreaking revelation. Parsons should be in the Pantheon of American popular music artists that include people like Hank Williams, Louis Armstrong, Willie Nelson, Sinatra, Muddy Waters and Elvis Presley. He changed the landscape through the force of his talent, his taste, and his personality and intellect the way few others would ever do. Especially considering the relatively small amount of recorded material he stands as an invisible titan straddling the country that gave us r This book is a heartbreaking revelation. Parsons should be in the Pantheon of American popular music artists that include people like Hank Williams, Louis Armstrong, Willie Nelson, Sinatra, Muddy Waters and Elvis Presley. He changed the landscape through the force of his talent, his taste, and his personality and intellect the way few others would ever do. Especially considering the relatively small amount of recorded material he stands as an invisible titan straddling the country that gave us rock and roll, soul and country western music. This book tragically lays out his trajectory from his entitled southern upbringing to Harvard, honkytonks, the Opry, Laurel Canyon and his Joshua Tree finale. He inspired the Americana movement in rock and personified the cosmic cowboy of the 60's rock culture and beyond. Fascinating portrayal that should someday make a great film hopefully.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    A little too detailed, but a very good read. It made Gram feel like a really like-able guy, which was nice. You might not like the book so much with all the details if you are not familiar with Gram's music or his impact on the music world. I didn't know that much about him until I was reading some other things, which led me to then I become interested enough to buy an actual book about him. "Hickory Wind" was good too, and a little shorter. A little too detailed, but a very good read. It made Gram feel like a really like-able guy, which was nice. You might not like the book so much with all the details if you are not familiar with Gram's music or his impact on the music world. I didn't know that much about him until I was reading some other things, which led me to then I become interested enough to buy an actual book about him. "Hickory Wind" was good too, and a little shorter.

  19. 5 out of 5

    John Winston Powell

    Best book I've read on Gram so far. Really takes you into his world and you see the paradox: he was so talented and yet sabotaged his groups and his music. Thank God we got what we got out of him. I was especially intrigued by the chapter on Winter Haven, FL as I lived there while in high school and was clueless about Gram at that point. If you love The Byrds as I do, you have to read this.... Best book I've read on Gram so far. Really takes you into his world and you see the paradox: he was so talented and yet sabotaged his groups and his music. Thank God we got what we got out of him. I was especially intrigued by the chapter on Winter Haven, FL as I lived there while in high school and was clueless about Gram at that point. If you love The Byrds as I do, you have to read this....

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This was not only the best Biography ever written about Gram, but one of the best Biographies I have ever read in my life. Written so eloquently. He was fair and honest. This book was amazing and full of talks with people who haven't talked about Gram until now. A great read for ANY music fan. Let alone someone who loves Mr. Parsons. This was not only the best Biography ever written about Gram, but one of the best Biographies I have ever read in my life. Written so eloquently. He was fair and honest. This book was amazing and full of talks with people who haven't talked about Gram until now. A great read for ANY music fan. Let alone someone who loves Mr. Parsons.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kirk Astroth

    An encyclopedic story of the rise and demise of Gram Parsons. Like reading a Russian novel—so many people to try and keep straight. But the writer knows his stuff. Told me lots I didnt know. Sad story of a gifted person’s descent into drugs and alcohol.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jaime Henderson

    gram parsons is kind of a dick.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This author has done his homework, on the complete friggin' lineage of Gram Parsons...sheesh...haven't gotten far enough to hear about Gram yet... This author has done his homework, on the complete friggin' lineage of Gram Parsons...sheesh...haven't gotten far enough to hear about Gram yet...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    An awful lot of words to tell us not very much. I still prefer the music to the man.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dotty

    Fascinating and heartbreaking.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Garrett Cash

    6 years ago, I read a book on Gram Parsons by Bob Kealing that I greatly enjoyed and still consider a favorite of the music biographies I've read. What it did not do was examine the whole scope of Parsons' life, ended as I remember it before he even got to Los Angeles. This book takes in the whole picture from before he was born until after his death. The main thing I learned from this book (and there's lots that I did) is that while we love Gram because he had an incredible voice and inspired m 6 years ago, I read a book on Gram Parsons by Bob Kealing that I greatly enjoyed and still consider a favorite of the music biographies I've read. What it did not do was examine the whole scope of Parsons' life, ended as I remember it before he even got to Los Angeles. This book takes in the whole picture from before he was born until after his death. The main thing I learned from this book (and there's lots that I did) is that while we love Gram because he had an incredible voice and inspired music, he was an unfortunate human being who had an enormous appetite for drugs, a shockingly lazy work ethic, and total self absorption. Meyer's triumph in this book is his celebration of Gram's achievements and talent, while tempering the praise with strong criticism of Parsons's immature and selfish approach to life that took away such a fine talent too early. Because Meyer's scope is so wide, in reading this book there is a lot of information about the context of Gram's world, in which there were many locales in a short span. This could frustrate some more casual readers/fans, but for someone like me who eats up all the nitty gritty of the world that spawned this music it was enthralling. Gram's upbringing sounds like a Faulkner novel, and unbelievably his life never got less bizarre after that. For fans of country, rock, and California music/culture in the 60's this is essential. Meyer's writing is impressive and made me think about things I took for granted or had never considered before every time I read it. 5/5

  27. 5 out of 5

    Allyson

    I have a soft spot for Gram Parsons' music, but after reading this book I realize I wouldn't have liked Gram Parsons that much in real life. Still he had a tragic childhood and his talent is quite clear. The book is written in a style that is easy to read and though it talks about the music doesn't get bogged down in cataloguing ever minutic detail. If you, like me, love the fun, wild ride of rock musician bios, this is a great read. These kind of books are like candy. I don't think it made me a I have a soft spot for Gram Parsons' music, but after reading this book I realize I wouldn't have liked Gram Parsons that much in real life. Still he had a tragic childhood and his talent is quite clear. The book is written in a style that is easy to read and though it talks about the music doesn't get bogged down in cataloguing ever minutic detail. If you, like me, love the fun, wild ride of rock musician bios, this is a great read. These kind of books are like candy. I don't think it made me a better person but I think spending a few cold days curled up with this book was totally worth the time.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Have always been a fan of his music. What a tragic life & what a tragic loss of a great talent. Makes you angry that he brought it all on himself. Book was a fascinating look at his upbringing & short lifetime. It became kind of rambling on a few occasions, but all information contained was interesting & meaningful to us country music & southern rock fans. Have to go now & listen to Hickory Wind with Keith Richards & Love Hurts with the spectacular Emmylou Harris. What a future he could have had Have always been a fan of his music. What a tragic life & what a tragic loss of a great talent. Makes you angry that he brought it all on himself. Book was a fascinating look at his upbringing & short lifetime. It became kind of rambling on a few occasions, but all information contained was interesting & meaningful to us country music & southern rock fans. Have to go now & listen to Hickory Wind with Keith Richards & Love Hurts with the spectacular Emmylou Harris. What a future he could have had.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Very detailed, maybe too much. I’ve always liked Parsons music. If the author has it right(who knows?), Parsons was a over indulged, self centered, rich kid who never worked a day in his life. He comes across to me as a person I wouldn’t like very much. A decent read, but I found myself disliking the authors opinions of various songs. Who cares if he didn’t like the Eagles? Millions of people did an do to this day. At times I wondered if the author was making things up, and admittedly he was spe Very detailed, maybe too much. I’ve always liked Parsons music. If the author has it right(who knows?), Parsons was a over indulged, self centered, rich kid who never worked a day in his life. He comes across to me as a person I wouldn’t like very much. A decent read, but I found myself disliking the authors opinions of various songs. Who cares if he didn’t like the Eagles? Millions of people did an do to this day. At times I wondered if the author was making things up, and admittedly he was speculating at times.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alec Downie

    Why use 3 words when you can use 30. Parson's story reads like a Steinbeck novel but less believable and the truth is all but a myth cloaked in lies and self serving by those left in his wake. I actually gave the book an extra star because the research was meticulous but the self important, flatulent opinion making and subtext snide side taking, made me hate it, and had it not been for my love of Gram's music, I would have given up after the intro. His place in music history is assured, without the Why use 3 words when you can use 30. Parson's story reads like a Steinbeck novel but less believable and the truth is all but a myth cloaked in lies and self serving by those left in his wake. I actually gave the book an extra star because the research was meticulous but the self important, flatulent opinion making and subtext snide side taking, made me hate it, and had it not been for my love of Gram's music, I would have given up after the intro. His place in music history is assured, without the need of this book.

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