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Townes Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt's music doesn't jump up and down, wear fancy clothes, or beat around the bush. Whether he was singing a quiet, introspective country-folk song or a driving, hungry blues, Van Zandt's lyrics and melodies were filled with the kind of haunting truth and beauty that you knew instinctively. His music came straight from his soul by way of a kind heart, an honest mind, and a keen ear for the gentle blend of words and melody. He could bring you down to a place so sad that you felt like you were scraping bottom, but just as quickly he could lift your spirits and make you smile at the sparkle of a summer morning or a loved one's eyes -- or raise a chuckle with a quick and funny talking blues. The magic of his songs is that they never leave you alone.

Despite his warm, dusty-sweet voice, as a singer Van Zandt never had anything resembling a hit in his nearly 30-year recording career -- he had a hard enough time simply keeping his records in print. Nonetheless, he was widely respected and admired as one of the greatest country and folk artists of his generation. The long list of singers who've covered his songs includes Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson (who had a number one country hit with "Pancho and Lefty" in 1983), Emmylou Harris, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Nanci Griffith, Hoyt Axton, Bobby Bare, the Tindersticks, and the Cowboy Junkies.

Van Zandt was a Texan by birth and a traveler by nature. His father was in the oil business, and the family moved around a lot -- Montana, Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, among other places -- which accounted for his sometimes vague answers to questions of where he "came from." Van Zandt spent a couple years in a military academy and a bit more time in college in Colorado before dropping out to become a folksinger. (Van Zandt often returned to Colorado in subsequent years, spending entire summers, he said, alone in the mountains on horseback.)

Van Zandt moved to Houston and got his first paying gigs on the folk music circuit there in the mid-'60s. He played clubs like Sand Mountain and the Old Quarter (where in 1973 he recorded one of his finest albums, Live at the Old Quarter, released four years later), and he met singers such as Guy Clark (who became a lifelong friend and frequent road partner), Jerry Jeff Walker, and blues legend Lightnin' Hopkins, who had a large influence on Van Zandt's guitar playing in particular.

Another Texas songwriter, Mickey Newbury, saw Van Zandt in Houston one night and soon had him set up with a recording gig in Nashville (with Jack Clement producing). The sessions became Van Zandt's debut album, For the Sake of the Song, released in 1968 by Poppy Records. The next five years were the most prolific of Van Zandt's career, as Poppy released the albums Our Mother the Mountain, Townes Van Zandt, Delta Momma Blues, High, Low and in Between, and The Late Great Townes Van Zandt. These included such gems as "For the Sake of the Song," "To Live's to Fly," "Tecumseh Valley," "Pancho and Lefty," and many more that have made him a legend in American and European songwriting circles.

Van Zandt moved to Nashville in 1976 at the urging of his new manager, John Lomax III. He signed a new deal with Tomato Records and in 1977 released Live at the Old Quarter, a double album -- and the first of several live recordings -- that contained many of his finest songs. In 1978 Tomato released Flyin' Shoes; the long list of players on that album included Chips Moman and Spooner Oldham.

Van Zandt didn't record again for nearly a decade, but he continued to tour. He moved back to Texas briefly, returning again to Nashville in the mid-'80s. During the early '80s, both "If I Needed You" and "Pancho and Lefty" became country radio hits. In 1987, Van Zandt was back in business with his eighth studio album, At My Window, which came out on his new label, Sugar Hill. By this time, Van Zandt's voice had dropped to a lower register, but the weathered, somewhat road-weary edge to it was as pure and expressive as ever. Two years later, Sugar Hill released Live & Obscure (recorded in a Nashville club in 1985), and two more live albums (Rain on a Conga Drum and Rear View Mirror) appeared on European labels in the early '90s. In 1990, Van Zandt toured with the Cowboy Junkies, and he wrote a song for them, "Cowboy Junkies Lament," which appeared on the group's Black Eyed Man album (along with a song the Junkies wrote for him, "Townes Blues").

Sugar Hill released Roadsongs in 1994, on which Van Zandt covered songs by Lightnin' Hopkins, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, and others, all recorded off the soundboard during recent concerts. At the end of that same year, Sugar Hill released No Deeper Blue, Van Zandt's first studio album since 1987. Van Zandt recorded it in Ireland with a group of Irish musicians. Van Zandt sang every song but only played guitar on one.

A year and a half after the release of No Deeper Blue, Van Zandt died unexpectedly on January 1, 1997; he was 52 years old. Posthumous releases included collections like Last Rights: The Life & Times of Townes Van Zandt and Anthology: 1968-1979, as well as albums like 1998's Abnormal and the following year's Far Cry From Dead, which featured previously unreleased songs.

The early 2000s saw a resurgence of interest in Van Zandt's music and enigmatic life; three book projects and two films entered production, and features on the musician appeared in such tastemaking rags as Mojo. But perhaps the greatest gem was the discovery of a collection of Van Zandt demos dating from 1966, a full two years before his proper debut. The ten previously unreleased recordings were issued by the Houston imprint Compadre in April 2003 as In the Beginning.... Included in the release were liner notes written by John Lomax III. ~ Kurt Wolff
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Sunshine Boy [ Demos]

Disc 1

2. Who Do You Love

4. Where I Lead Me

5. Blue Ridge Mountains

6. No Deal

8. To Live Is To Fly

9. You Are Not Needed Now

10. Don't Take It Too Bad

11. Sad Cinderella

12. Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold

13. White Freight Liner Blues

14. Two Hands

15. Lungs

16. Dead Flowers

Disc 2

1. Heavenly Houseboat Blues

3. To Live Is To Fly

4. Tower Song

5. You Are Not Needed Now

6. Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold

7. Highway Kind

8. Greensboro Woman

9. When He Offers His Hand

10. Dead Flowers

12. Standin'

x

Track List: A Private Concert

1. Pancho And Lefty (Live)

2. Buckskin Stallion Blues (Live)

3. No Place To Fall (Live)

8. Rake (Live)

9. Mr. Mudd And Mr. Gold (Live)

10. If I Needed You (Live)

13. Tecumseh Valley (Live)

15. Brand New Companion (Live)

x

Track List: Legend

Disc 1

1. If I Needed You

2. Pancho And Lefty

3. Snow Don't Fall

4. No Lonesome Tune

5. Silver Ships Of Andilar

6. Heavenly Houseboat Blues

7. Be Here To Love Me

8. Kathleen

9. Snake Mountain Blues

10. St. John The Gambler

11. Our Mother The Mountain

12. For The Sake Of The Song

13. None But The Rain

14. Waiting Around To Die

15. Lungs

16. Colorado Girl

17. I'll Be Here In The Morning

18. Nothin

19. Tower Song

20. Come Tomorrow

Disc 2

1. Turnstyled, Junkpiled

2. Brand New Companion

4. No Deal

5. You Are Not Needed Now

6. Highway Kind

7. To Live Is To Fly

8. Mr Mudd And Mr Gold

9. High, Low And In-Between

10. Loretta

11. No Place To Fall

12. Flyin Shoes

13. Who Do You Love

14. When She Don't Need Me

15. Snake Song

16. Fraternity Blues (Live)

17. Tecumseh Valley (Live)

18. Cocaine Blues (Live)

19. White Freight Liner Blues (Live)

20. Only Him Or Me (Live)

x

Track List: Legend: The Very Best Of Townes Van Zandt

Disc 1

1. If I Needed You

2. Pancho And Lefty

3. Snow Don't Fall

4. No Lonesome Tune

5. Silver Ships Of Andilar

6. Heavenly Houseboat Blues

7. Be Here To Love Me

8. Kathleen

9. Snake Mountain Blues

10. St John The Gambler

11. Our Mother The Mountain

12. For The Sake Of The Song

13. None But The Rain

14. Waiting Around To Die

15. Lungs

16. Colorado Girl

17. I'll Be Here In The Morning

18. Nothin

19. Tower Song

20. Come Tomorrow

Disc 2

1. Turnstyled, Junkpiled

2. Brand New Companion

4. No Deal

5. You Are Not Needed Now

6. Highway Kind

7. To Live Is To Fly

8. Mr Mudd And Mr Gold

9. High, Low And In-Between

10. Loretta

11. No Place To Fall

12. Flyin Shoes

13. Who Do You Love

14. When She Don't Need Me

15. Snake Song

16. Fraternity Blues

17. Tecumseh Valley

18. Cocaine Blues

19. White Freight Liner Blues

20. Only Him Or Me

x

Track List: In The Beginning

1. Black Widow Blues

2. Maryetta's Song

3. Hunger Child Blues

4. Gypsy Friday

5. Waitn' For The Day

6. Black Jack Mama

7. When Your Dream Lovers Die

8. Colorado Bound

9. Big Country Blues

10. Black Crow Blues

x

Track List: A Gentle Evening With Townes Van Zandt

2. Rake (Live)

5. She Came And She Touched Me (Live)

6. Lungs (Live)

7. Tecumseh Valley (Live)

9. Talking Thunderbird Wine Blues (Live)

x

Track List: Live At McCabe's

1. The Hole (Live)

2. Pueblo Waltz (Live)

3. Pancho & Lefty (Live)

4. Short Haired Woman Blues (Live)

5. Shrimp Song (Live)

6. Snowin' On Raton (Live)

7. Katie Belle (Live)

8. Dollar Bill Blues (Live)

9. A Song For (Live)

10. Banks Of Ohio (Live)

11. Walbash Cannonball (Live)

12. Marie (Live)

x

Track List: The Highway Kind

1. Still Lookin' For You (Live)

2. Dublin Blues

3. Lost Highway (Live)

4. A Song For

5. The Hole

6. Highway Kind

7. (I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle

8. No Deal

9. Blaze's Blues

10. Darcy Farrow

11. My Proud Mountains

12. Wreck On The Highway

13. Rake (Live)

14. Ira Hayes

x

Track List: Rear View Mirror

1. Pancho & Lefty (Live, 1993)

2. If I Needed You (Live, 1993)

3. For The Sake Of The Song (Live, 1993)

4. Our Mother The Mountain (Live, 1993)

5. To Live Is To Fly (Live, 1993)

6. Lungs (Live, 1993)

7. Flyin' Shoes (Live, 1993)

8. No Place To Fall (Live, 1993)

9. Dollar Bill Blues (Live, 1993)

10. White Freightliner Blues (Live, 1993)

11. Tecumseh Valley (Live, 1993)

12. Don't You Take It Too Bad (Live, 1993)

13. Tower Song (Live, 1993)

14. Rex's Blues (Live, 1993)

15. Brother Flower (Live, 1993)

16. Waitin' 'Round To Die (Live, 1993)

17. Colorado Girl (Live, 1993)

x

Track List: At My Window

1. Snowin' On Raton

2. Blue Wind Blew

3. At My Window

4. For The Sake Of The Song

5. Ain't Leavin' Your Love

6. Buckskin Stallion Blues

7. Little Sundance #2

8. Still Lookin' For You

9. Gone, Gone Blues

10. The Catfish Song

x

Track List: Live At The Old Quarter, Houston, Texas

Disc 1

1. Announcement (Live Houston Texas)

2. Pancho And Lefty (Live Houston Texas)

3. Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold (Live Houston Texas)

4. Don't Take It Too Bad (Live Houston Texas)

5. Two Girls (Live Houston Texas)

6. Fraternity Blues (Live Houston Texas)

7. If I Needed You (Live Houston Texas)

8. Brand New Companion (Live Houston Texas)

9. White Freightliner Blues (Live Houston Texas)

10. To Live Is To Fly (Live Houston Texas)

11. She Came And She Touched Me (Live Houston Texas)

12. Talking Thunderbird Blues (Live Houston Texas)

13. Rex's Blues (Live Houston Texas)

14. Nine Pound Hammer (Live Houston Texas)

Disc 2

1. For The Sake Of The Song (Live Houston Texas)

2. Chauffeur's Blues (Live Houston Texas)

3. No Place To Fall (Live Houston Texas)

4. Loretta (Live Houston Texas)

5. Kathleen (Live Houston Texas)

6. Why She's Acting This Way (Live Houston Texas)

7. Cocaine Blues (Live Houston Texas)

8. Why Do You Love (Live Houston Texas)

9. Tower Song (Live Houston Texas)

10. Waiting 'round To Die (Live Houston Texas)

11. Tecumseh Valley (Live Houston Texas)

12. Lungs (Live Houston Texas)

13. Only Him Or Me (Live Houston Texas)

x

Track List: Late Great Townes Van Zandt

1. No Lonesome Tune

2. Sad Cinderella

3. German Mustard (A Clapalong)

5. Honky Tonkin'

6. Snow Don't Fall

7. Fraulein

8. Pancho & Lefty

9. If I Needed You

10. Silver Ships Of Andilar

11. Heavenly Houseboat Blues

x

Track List: Our Mother The Mountain

1. Be Here To Love Me

2. Kathleen

3. She Came And She Touched Me

4. Like A Summer Thursday

5. Our Mother The Mountain

6. Second Lovers Song

7. St. John The Gambler

8. Tecumseh Valley

9. Snake Mountain Blues

10. My Proud Mountains

11. Why She's Acting This Way

x

Track List: Townes Van Zandt

1. For The Sake Of The Song

2. Columbine

3. Waiting Around To Die

4. Don't Take It Too Bad

5. Colorado Girl

6. Lungs

7. I'll Be Here In The Morning

8. Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel

9. (Quicksilver Daydreams Of ) Maria

10. None But The Rain

x

Track List: Be Here To Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt

Disc 1

1. I've Designed It That Way

2. At My Window

3. Highway Kind

4. Rake

5. Pancho And Lefty

6. My Proud Mountains

7. Nothin

8. Dollar Bill Blues

9. Waitin' Round To Die

10. If I Needed You

11. Where I Lead Me

12. Be Here To Love Me

13. No Place To Fall

14. My Starter Won't Start

Disc 2

1. Wild Crazy Things

2. Rex's Blues

3. Black Crow Blues

4. Don't You Take It Too Bad

5. When She Don't Need Me

6. Snake Song

7. Mr Mudd And Mr Gold

8. Flyin' Shoes

9. Delta Momma Blues

10. Marie

12. Brand New Companion

13. High, Low And In Between

14. St. John The Gambler

15. I Just Had To Fall

x

Track List: Documentary

x

Track List: High, Low And In Between

1. Two Hands

2. You Are Not Needed Now

3. Greensboro Woman

4. Highway Kind

5. Standin'

6. No Deal

7. To Live Is To Fly

8. When He Offers His Hand

9. Mr. Gold And Mr. Mud

10. Blue Ridge Mountains

11. High, Low And In Between

x

Track List: Texas Troubadour

Disc 1

1. For The Sake Of The Song

2. Tecumseh Valley

3. Many A Fine Lady

4. Quicksilver Daydreams Of Maria

5. Waitin' Around To Die

6. I'll Be Here In The Morning

7. Sad Cinderella

8. The Velvet Voices

9. All Your Young Servants

10. Talkin' Karate Blues

11. Sixteen Summers, Fifteen Falls

12. Be Here To Love Me

13. Kathleen

14. She Came And She Touched Me

15. Like A Summer Thursday

16. Our Mother The Mountain

17. Second Lover's Song

18. St. John The Gambler

19. Tecumseh

20. Snake Mountain Blues

21. My Proud Mountains

Disc 2

1. For The Sake Of The Song

2. Columbine

3. Waitin' Around To Die

4. Don't Take It Too Bad

5. Colorado Girl

6. Lungs

7. I'll Be Here In The Morning

8. Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel

9. Quicksilver Daydreams Of Maria

10. None But The Rain

11. Ffv

12. Delta Momma Blues

13. Only Him Or Me

14. Turnstyled, Junkpiled

15. Tower Song

16. Come Tomorrow

17. Brand New Companion

18. Where I Lead Me

19. Rake

20. Nothin'

Disc 3

1. Two Hands

2. You Are Not Needed Now

3. Greensboro Woman

4. Highway Kind

5. Standin'

6. No Deal

7. To Live Is To Fly

8. When He Offers His Hand

9. Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold

10. Blue Ridge Mountains

11. High Low And In Between

12. No Lonesome Tune

13. Sad Cinderella

14. German Mustard (A Clapalong)

15. Don't Let The Sunshine Fool Ya'

16. Honky Tonkin'

17. Snow Don't Fall

18. Fraulein

19. Pancho & Lefty

20. If I Needed You

21. Silver Ships Of Andilar

22. Heavenly Houseboat Blues

Disc 4

1. Loretta

2. No Place To Fall

3. Flyin' Shoes

4. Who Do You Love

5. When She Don't Need Me

6. Dollar Bill Blues

7. Rex's Blues

8. Pueblo Waltz

9. Brother Flower

10. Snake Song

11. The Spider Song

12. Upon My Soul

13. Buckskin Stallion Blues

14. At My Window

15. Two Girls

16. Fraternity Blues

17. White Freightliner Blues

18. Talking Thunderbird Blues

19. Nine Pound Hammer

20. Chauffeur's Blues

21. Cocaine Blues

22. Only Him Or Me

Comments

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Which in your opinion is his best CD ? Which should I get to really discover the legend
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Who is where?
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denverlangle y
nn559 I'm checking to see if you are still there. I don't know you, but I hope you are still there and listening to TVZ and John PHUCKN Prine.
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Van Zandt, Haggard, now Guy Clark. Giants walked the Earth.
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God bless Townes.
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Saw the group in Bowling Green---late 70s--thinkg they styed at my friends home--log cabin in Alvaton/plan o nuff said
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dvtejera
Just discovered Townes. Where have I been?
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The first paragraph of his bio is absolute perfection. Never alone with Townes Van Zandt.
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Nights with roxy & judy gordon after poor David's till dawn, gone too soon.
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Woody, Hiram, Zimmy, and TVZ. My musical Mount Rushmore.
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Man, Townes is one of those artists i feel i was destined to hear and enjoy . Just so many great great songs with a variety of emotion and vivid imagery. Our mother the monutain, the song is so haunting and horrofic (imho) it would be a great music video or even movie adaptation. Creepy in a good way. Cheers to finding new and old music, may it all be good music!
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Greatest musician who ever lived. Love you Townes
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dpmaem
Townes Van Zandt enough said
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God I love this song! It's got that deep-down mournful mystique that is Villa and the cold lonely iconic Lefty, the isolated pathos of the men I watched riding the trains behind our barn in 1947.
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And to quote Steve Earle I will stand on Bob
Dylan's coffee table and tell him Towns Van Zandt is the best songwriter in America. Towns reply I know Bob Dylan's people, they will kill you Steve. I never heard of TVZ until I saw him open up for The Cowboy Junkies around 1990?? something. Great writer and greatly missed.
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sORRY THAT i'M BOTHERING YOU AGAIN BUT I THINK DAVID GILMORE IS THE GOD OF MUSIC AND YOU ARE THE GOD SONGWRITERS iM AND DRINKING MYSELF TO AND MY LAST WISH IS YOU AND DAVID GILMORE COULD DO A SONG TOGETHER OF COURSE I'M GOING TO DEAD BY THEM MAYBEY YOU CAN DEDICATE TO ME NICK SCHEPIS
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MAN WHAT CAN i SAY I.VE BEEN LISTENIG TO YOUR MUSIC i LOVE YOU MAN,i'VE SAID THE SAME THING TO JOHN PRINE i'M 59 AND i'M NOBODY i AIN'T GAY EITHER YOUR MUSIC MEANS SO MUCH TO ME i THINK SURVIED THIS LONG BECAUSE YOU TWO i N HYAVE A31 YEAR OLD ONE ONE 24, AND ONE 22 AND 2 GRANDCHILDRE N AND ONE ON THE WAY AND I'MSITTING HERE DRINKING TEQUILA TO DIE BUT i JUST WANT TO THANK YOU FOR GIVING ME THE ABILIT TO SURVIVE SO i COULD GET THEM TO THIS POINT i JUST WANT TO NDIE NOW
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The best. That is all.
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I've been listening to all the Townes I can get my ears on.Ha Ha! He's one of a kind. Top listening
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RIP Townes!
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hector_ramir e z 2 9 1 9 9 0
Legends never die.
Long live TVZ! I'll see you soon brother
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bigot of the year! its all in a days prejudice..
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Awesome
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Not a word about the bottle?
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Love the lyrics!
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zrheinberger
dont read this because it actually works. You will get kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life. tomorrow will be the best day of your life. however if you do not post this comment to at least 3 songs you will die in 2 days. now you've started reading this so don't stop. this is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in at least 143 minutes when if done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is scary cause it actually works
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Texas
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He was pretty rad, but Dave bazan holds the number one spot for me. But I love some Townes van Zandt
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a simple, poetic spirit-gone way too soon- but then he planned it that way.
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danzigirwin
Arguably, there could be songwriters as good as Townes Van Zandt. Guy Clark e.g. But there ain't nobody better!
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smokin' a joint and drinking wine behind the old KPFT studio in Houston a long time ago. wonderful memory.
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buddyprtgtn
I can't believe they didn't include Steve Earles name in the bio at all.
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He was Steve Earle's mentor. They were both from Texas. Steve Earle gave his first son the middle name Townes. Both are greats in their own right!
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nmt1958
A true poet!
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psing3
lyrics are wrong on A Song For
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Surprised to see no mention of Steve Earle. He did a great album covering Townes tunes and is a very successful singer songwriter.
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truly a man of brilliance.T h e musicians musician.
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kennethmabre y
damn i miss towns . r i p
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alas the perfect station!!!
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Thanks to Mark Davis for introducing me to Townes van Zandt. If you like TvZ check out the music of Mark Davis, singer/songw r i t e r from Edmonton, here on Pandora...
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belkat
Always knew of TVZ -- his writing and such -- but have only really listened to him lately. A simple, touching voice and, of course, great lyrics. Sad he passed so young.
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bob t

rode with him in the mountains. got struck by lightning once. always kept riding until we ran out of bourbon. great guy. always the champion of the underdog (of which i thought I was at the time.
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Rake is one of the most introspectiv e pieces of music ever written.
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I tell ya, I absolutely love Townes' music. I never had the pleasure to see him live but must have 40 or 50 live recordings. His bad jokes are priceless. I think one of the things that separates great songwriters from the rest is how their songs translate when covered by other great artists. Nobody can really do a song quite like Townes but Steve Earle gave it a hell of a whirl with his album Townes, great stuff. However, my absolute favorite Townes cover is Nanci Griffith doing Tecumseh Valley.
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I had an old Beer Joint on the outskirts of Austin Texas called Breezy's Pizza & Beer Garden & got to have the pleasure of Townes Van Zandt playing there.He was such an artist, a poet and a kind sensitive man....Breez y ' s was only as crowded when Gary P Nunn played or occasionally Rusty Weir...Towne s lives on in my heart and would have loved to hear him develop and grow and feel like he did....Hal Sapadin
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Bless him again! Not sure there even are similar artists (Who excepting Ramblin' Jack & Woodie would think of spending summers wandering on his horse alone, camping in Colorado...a w a y from people? Even the other 2 wanderers took trains, I suppose.) Willie/Arlo may be similar, but in their busses, blessed with $ (fine!). He is missed, a great poet/singer/ s o n g w r i t e r , consumed by alcohol (common for geniuses tortured at some level). In short, he's GREAT. Keep ridin', Barb,.+Write & sing!
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If I get to heaven first, he's mine! Danielle,LOL , I sure hope they have Guitars in heaven so i can always hear him sing
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gnkrazy1
passin the fire from guthrie to dylan ..brother keep it up
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solardawn
Marry me in heaven Townes!
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creolelorrai n e d u l e c h e
arrete pas las musique....h e will be remembered as one of the best of all americana music
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