Gram Parsons was under-appreciated in his time. He never had a hit record or found super-stardom. Today, however, he is hailed as the patron saint of alt-country and Americana music. His influence is acknowledged by a diverse group of artists who include Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Norah Jones, Beck, Tom Petty, Ryan Adams, Wilco, Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam, REM and the Black Crowes. In 2005, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at #87 on their list of the 100 Most Influential Artists of All Time. In the issue Keith Richards claims that Parsons “effect on country music is enormous. And this is why we’re talking about him now.”
Gram Parsons has been the subject of five biographies, four tribute albums and a documentary film, Fallen Angel.
Born into a southern gothic tragedy of Tennessee Williams proportions, Parsons’ family owned 18,000 acres of Florida orange groves, and their history had all the infidelity, addiction, self-destruction and insanity that money could buy. His father, ‘Coon Dog’ Conner, committed suicide when Gram was twelve years old, and his mother drank herself to death five years later. Parsons younger sister, Avis, was committed to a mental institution by their stepfather, Bob Parsons. She later died in a boat crash. Bob died of cirrhosis of the liver.
It was Parsons talent, good looks, charisma and heartbreaking voice that opened doors for him to define the alt-country music and Americana scenes in the ‘6os and ‘70s. With a morbid compulsion to go out in a haze of glory like his hero Hank Williams, Parsons overdosed on morphine and tequila September 19, 1973 in room 8 at the Joshua Tree Inn on the edge of the Mojave Desert. He was only 26 years old. It was perhaps another bizarre twist in the story of his death that sealed his legendary posthumous rock’n roll status; his road manager, Phil Kaufman, stole his body from Los Angeles airport and took it back to the desert where he burned it. Apparently, Parsons had made a pact with Kaufman prior to his death because he had wanted to be cremated in Joshua Tree and have his ashes spread over Cap Rock.
Grievous Angel: The Legend of Gram Parsons was inspired by Michael Bate’s interview with the iconic singer, which was recorded in Boston in March 1973, six months before his death. This was to be Parsons’ last recorded interview. The theatrical concert is produced and directed by Michael Bate, and was written by Michael Bate with David McDonald. In Australia, Grievous Angel: The Legend of Gram Parsons stars Jordie Lane as Gram Parsons and Clare Reynolds as Emmylou Harris. Featured musicians include Al Bragg, Chris Breitner, Pat McLaughlin and Tom Martel, with music by Gram Parsons, the Rolling Stones, Hank Williams, the Louvin Brothers, Chris Hillman, Chris Ethridge, Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan, Dan Penn, Elvis Presley, Ric Grech, Boudleaux-Bryant and Bob Buchanan.