One of the greatest love stories in music, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris' relationship was over before it began, but it produced a time-tested body of work. She's a tuning fork for emotion, whether she's mourning her late friend and mentor Gram Parsons ("Boulder to Birmingham"), breathing her own. The renewal of their working relationship, Harris says diplomatically, is no big deal. “Brian and I have Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons.
I started as a harmony singer, that was his way to kind of sneakily turn me onto this extraordinary body of music, and in singing country music I really found the place that my voice was supposed to be I can't imagine that I would have gotten to the place I am artistically or even vocally, if it hadn't been for Gram. Later when Harris got into bluegrass, she'd have to learn the greater discipline of three-part harmonies.
Rodney Crowell was actually Harris' first duet partner after Parsons' death. She'd been looking for songs to cover for her debut Pieces of the Sky and happened upon Crowell's "Bluebird Wine. Crowell was brought along on her first solo tour as rhythm guitarist and Harris' duet partner. The new LP with Crowell also follows one of Harris' finest albums, Hard Bargain, featuring more of the singer's own compositions 11 of 13 than any album in years.
Hard Bargain was also Harris' best-charting solo release since 's Roses in the Snow, the sixth of those seven gold records that started her career.
After a life-long friendship, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell finally make a record together
It's just not worth it because I have too many good memories about our relationship and all that he gave me. What I did was just to plunge myself into work on a real anonymous level.
I was in Washington. It wasn't like I was in LA or something. I just got a band together and started doing all the songs we'd done on stage.
And I did it. It wasn't a very inspired thing. It was like therapy. It was like, 'Okay, get up on the bars and walk, five feet every day and maybe at the end of the year you're gonna be able to succeed to walk by yourself'.
After a while she came out and began to play again, forming her own band, the Angel Band, and getting back into the country scene. One of her close friends at the time was Linda Ronstadt, still one of her best friends.
Emmylou played a weekly gig at The Red Fox, a redneck, bluegrass, beer joint. In the audience was Brian Ahern, the man who was to produce her first Reprise album, "Pieces of the Sky". Brian came down with a tape recorder, shakes my hand and says hello, sits down, turns the tape recorder on and sits through four sets. Didn't say a word. Afterwards he asked why I thought I needed a producer. In October she entered the studio to record "Pieces of the Sky".
On the album she used such top line musicians as Glen D. Hardin on piano, James Burton on guitar and Bernie Leadon on banjo, bass, dobro, etc. But when it came to putting a band together to go on the road to promote the album this caused her a terrible problem.
Whats more I had the musicians who wanted to go on the road with me and a record company willing to subsidise it. But it left me a terrible oproblem because, at that time, I had Angel Band together who, besides being talented musicians, they were real good friends of mine. It was a hard decision, but I fired them. In the long run, though, I think it was the right decision because I've got an incredible band together now. Although I thought it was a nice album, I thought there were alot of nice songs on it but I figured it would jsut be ignored 'cause it wasn't a commercial pop record and it wasn't a basic country album.
And it definitely wasn't a rock 'n' roll album. Canyon Fire Inspires Song " 'Boulder To Birmingham' was written on my own except for the melody to the verses, which I couldn't get anything.
I took it to Bill Danoff, sang the chorus, showed him the rest of the lyrics, and he just took it from there. I was out in Los Angeles during the Topanga Canyon fire. It was right after Gram's death and I was really undergoing some strange things. It was really kinda awful being out there. I felt really kind of lost.
That's what it was hat I was going through and that fire didn't help. I felt like I was being burnt alive. It's not like I set out to write a song about Gram. It's just that most of the lyrics came from that period of time.
I hesitate to say that song is about Gram, but it's a song that's inspired by some of the feelings I had after his death. We had all these songs and had no idea how to put them together. I tried different combinations, like you put a puzzle together. I just wanted it to flow somehow but not in terms of a concept - just musically. It took me a while to get used to the sequencing because of all the combinations we tried. They play only for their own ejoyment. They are some of the finest musicians I've ever worked with.
John and Fayssoux Starling really taught me a lot of music. I can't believe the power on it. It had to be live. It had the energy. All the same the comments made Emmylou respond. You have to do what's honest for you.
If nothing else 'Elite Hotel' was a totally honest album and completely indicative of what I'd been doing on the road for the past year with the band. It was what my life had been. I think it would have been completely different if we'd have met before in a scial situation. As it was I just walked into the sessions and shook hands with him and started working.
I prefer to come in and hear a song and get some ideas about it before I do a take. I just watched his mouth and watched what he was saying. That's where all that humming comes from. You can hear me humming on some of those tracks. I didn't know they wre going to use that: He took her off "Hurricane" and substituted Ronnee Blakely instead so she had had chalked it up to experience when she turned on the car radio on new year's eve I was always bad in languages at school and the first song he gives me is in Spanish.
I didn't even take Spanish in school. Took French and flunked it. At White's funeral, Parsons and Bernie Leadon launched into an impromptu touching rendition of " Farther Along "; that evening, Parsons reportedly informed Phil Kaufman of his final wish: Despite the almost insurmountable setback, Parsons, Harris, and the other musicians decided to continue with plans for a fall tour.
In the summer ofParsons' Topanga Canyon home burned to the ground, the result of a stray cigarette. Nearly all of his possessions were destroyed with the exception of a guitar and a prized Jaguar automobile.
The fire proved to be the last straw in the relationship between Burrell and Parsons, who moved into a spare room in Kaufman's house. Before formally breaking up with Burrell, Parsons already had a woman waiting in the wings. While recording, he saw a photo of a beautiful woman at a friend's home and was instantly smitten.Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris-"Love Hurts" from "Grievous Angel"
The woman turned out to be Margaret Fisher, a high school sweetheart of the singer from his Waycross, Georgiadays. Like Parsons, Fisher had drifted west and became established in the Bay Area rock scene. A meeting was arranged and the two instantly rekindled their relationship, with Fisher dividing her weeks between Los Angeles and San Francisco at Parsons' expense. Death of Gram Parsons In the late s, Parsons became enamored of and began to vacation at Joshua Tree National Monument in southeastern Californiawhere he frequently partook in psychedelics and reportedly experienced several UFO sightings.
After splitting from Burrell, Parsons often spent his weekends in the area with Margaret Fisher and Phil Kaufman, with whom he had been living. Scheduled to resume touring in OctoberParsons decided to go on another recuperative excursion on September Kaufman later declared that Parsons' attorney was preparing divorce papers for him to serve to Burrell while the singer remained in Joshua Tree on September Parsons consumed alcohol and barbiturates in high amounts.
On September 18, Martin drove back to Los Angeles to resupply the group with marijuana. That night, after challenging Fisher and McElroy to drink with him Fisher didn't like alcohol and McElroy was recovering from a bout of hepatitis Che said, "I'll drink for the three of us," and proceeded to drink six double tequilas. They then returned to the Joshua Tree Inn, where Parsons purchased morphine from an unknown young woman.
After being injected by her in room 8, he overdosed. Fisher gave Parsons an ice-cube suppositoryand later on a cold shower. Instead of moving Parsons around the room, she put him to bed and went out to buy coffee in the hope of reviving him, leaving McElroy to stand watch.
As his respiration became irregular and later ceased, McElroy attempted resuscitation. Her efforts failed and Fisher, watching from outside, was visibly alarmed. After further failed attempts, they decided to call an ambulance. Parsons was declared dead on his arrival at High Desert Memorial Hospital at The official cause of death was an overdose of morphine and alcohol.
Gram Parsons - Wikipedia
An Intimate Biography of Gram Parsons, the amount of morphine consumed by Parsons would be lethal to three regular users; thus, he had likely overestimated his tolerance in light of his diminished intake despite his extensive experience with opiates. Keith Richards stated in the documentary film Fallen Angel that Parsons understood the danger of combining opiates and alcohol and should have known better.
Before his death, Parsons stated that he wanted his body cremated at Joshua Tree and his ashes spread over Cap Rock, a prominent natural feature there; however, Parsons' stepfather Bob organized a private ceremony back in New Orleans and neglected to invite any of his friends from the music industry. Upon reaching the Cap Rock section of the park, they attempted to cremate Parsons' body by pouring five gallons of gasoline into the open coffin and throwing a lit match inside.
What resulted was an enormous fireball. The police gave chase but, as one account puts it, "were encumbered by sobriety," and the men escaped. The site of Parsons' cremation was marked by a small concrete slab and was presided over by a large rock flake known to rock climbers as The Gram Parsons Memorial Hand Traverse. There is no monument at Cap Rock noting Parsons' cremation at the site.
The Emmylou Harris Story
His influence could still be heard well into the next millennium. Inthe Gandulf Hennig-directed documentary film titled Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel was released. The show featured tunes written by Gram Parsons and Gene Clark as well as influential songs and musical styles from other artists that were part of that era. Performers were also encouraged to showcase their own material.
The underlying theme of the event is to inspire the performers to take these musical styles to the next level of the creative process.
In addition, the Gram Parsons Tribute, in Waycross, Georgia, is a music festival remembering Parsons in the town in which he grew up.