A Deeper Blue: The Life and Music of Townes Van Zandt by Robert Earl HardyTownes Van Zandt is one of the best songwriters of all time. Snowin On Raton and White Freightliner Blues are two of my favorite songs ever. I always knew Townes was an arsehole but not until I read this book did I know how complete a jerk and jackass he was. Here was a man who let heroin, whisky and vodka destroy his career, three marriages and his entire personal life. That said, the chapter on his treatment (shock therapy) at a Galveston psychiatric center while he was in college, made me cry and made me much more sympathetic to his situation and his life. It is an extremely depressing book but only because Townes life was so depressing. Whether it was his fault for submitting to drugs and alcohol or the fault of people who took advantage of him (most notably his third wife Jeanene or his manager Howard Eggers) or, perhaps most likely, the fault of his bipolar syndrome, it it quite depressing.
Looking on the sunny side of life, here are at least 3 facts to provide hope for mankind:
1) Townes came from an extremely important and wealthy family of original settlers of Texas, politicians, lawyers and oil executives. His father was a lawyer and oilman. I always figured some of the demons in Townes life was due to his father disowning or at least disapproving of his son becoming a counter culture folk musician. Actually his father was extremely kind, encouraging and supportive of him. As was his mother.
2) Townes first wife Fran was a saint. She devoted several years of her life to trying to help Townes and only left him after he continued using heroin after the birth of their son.
3) Despite it all, Townes always had some sense of character and class. When one of his friends was badmouthing his third wife (who at least by the account of this book, was a pure demon) he told his friend Never criticize Jeanene. She is the mother of my children.
Two interesting tidbits I learned from this book:
1) The lines in White Freightliner Blues--Well, its bad news from Houston/Half of my friends are dyin/Well, its bad news from Houston/Half of my friends are dyin were unfortunately true. Townes wrote the song after moving to Nashville from Houston and his old friends really were dying from drug abuse.
2) While I knew Doc Watson and Emmylou Harris had each recorded a version of Townes If I Needed You I had not known they each omitted the line Loop and Lil agree/Shes a sight to see. Loop and Lil were two parakeets Townes regularly traveled with. The referencing to his two parakeets approving the woman he is with is key to a very charming aspect of Townes nature and are easily the best lines of the excellent song.
A Deeper Blue: The Life and Music of Townes Van Zandt
This was Van Zandt's first studio album of original songs in seven years following At My Window and the last to be widely released before his death on New Year's Day I said, 'Phillip, I got a plan. And it all came together. Then I did about a day tour through England and Ireland. Irish boys on it. Declan Masterson 's uilleann pipe weaves and wheeze through Townes most surreal narrative since he crashed his silver ship against the rocks of Andilar.
As the title suggests, A Deeper Blue , the second Van Zandt biography to emerge and first in the University of North Texas' Lives of Musicians series, defers heavily toward the darker hues of the artist's personality. Unlike John Kruth's To Live's to Fly , Robert Earl Hardy's writing remains detail-driven, excavating documents like the young Van Zandt's psychological evaluation from Galveston's Titus Harris Clinic, but lacks the anecdotal stories that would reflect the lighter, and often outlandish, aspects of the troubadour's life. Compounding the ill-balanced portrayal is the author's failure to secure the inclusion of his interviews with either TVZ manager Kevin Eggers or widow Jeanene Van Zandt, exacerbating the already-mired legacy battle between the two, while contributions from tour manager Harold Eggers and close friend Guy Clark are both noticeably absent. Hardy is most successful in his thoughtful analysis of the songs themselves, which he frequently considers autobiographical in terms of Van Zandt's endless internal strife, but that dichotomy never develops in his examination of TVZ's tempestuous life. Got opinions about bands, clubs, performers, and everything else good in Austin? Let your voice be heard in our annual Best of Austin ballot. Voting is open now!
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For the next step, you'll be taken to a website to complete the donation and enter your billing information. You'll then be redirected back to LARB. To take advantage of all LARB has to offer, please create an account or log in before joining There is less than a week left to support our matching grant fund drive! Your tax-deductible donation made to LARB by pm, December 31, will be doubled thanks to an anonymous donor. He had, after all, named his album The Late Great Townes Van Zandt — possibly a joke about his perpetual obscurity, or possibly because he and everyone who knew him thought he would die young like Hank Williams who also died on January 1st. And lay me down dissatisfied.