Monday, June 14, 2010

Fallen Angel: Gram Parsons and Wild Horses

Over the weekend, I watched an excellent documentary on the musical career and scandalous death of Gram Parsons. From The Byrds to The Flying Burrito Brothers to his work with Emmylou Harris and The Fallen Angel Band, Gram produced some phenomenal music before his tragic death at the age of 26 from a drug overdose. The movie makes clear Gram's love for traditional country music, including singers George Jones, Buck Owens, and Merle Haggard.

Gram brought his vast knowledge of country music songwriting to The Byrds in 1968 when he was invited to join as a keyboard player by Chris Hillman to help offset the departure of David Crosby.  The music Gram produced with them on their Sweetheart of the Rodeo album in 1968 and later with The Flying Burrito Brothers between 1969 and 1970 significantly impacted the infusion of country music into the rock n' roll scene.

While a member of The Byrds, in 1968, through Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn, Gram Parsons met Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.   He began to spend significant amounts of time with them, especially Keith, playing records and teaching them about American country music. As the story goes instead of traveling with The Byrds to perform a charity concert in South Africa, Gram instead opted to remain in Europe with Mick and Keith, which led to Parsons' dismissal from The Byrds.

Over three days in December 1969, The Rolling Stones recorded the song Wild Horses in the famed FAME recording studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The song was shelved by the band due to contractual issues with their record company, but Parsons heard it and requested permission to record it with The Flying Burrito Brothers even though the song had not yet been released. With Mick Jagger's permission, Parson's recorded the song and included it on the Flying Burrito Brothers' second album, Burrito Deluxe, released in April 1970.  Gram honored Mick's request to not release the track as a single. One year later, in April '71, The Rolling Stones recording of Wild Horses was released on their own album, Sticky Fingers.

Take a listen here to The Flying Burrito Brothers' recording of Wild Horses:

Bonus footage:

The Flying Burrito Brothers performing Six Days On The Road as the third band of the day at the infamous Altamont Festival on December 6, 1969. They followed Santana and Jefferson Airplane and preceded CSNY and The Stones. This footage is from the documentary Gimme Shelter:


Anonymous said...

Another stellar post.

Flying burrito Brothers Anthology 1969-1972 is a great collection.

The originals are great, but the covers are fantastic:

Do Right Woman;
Dark End of the Street;
If you gotta go, go now;
wild horses;
to Ramona;
Ain't that a lot of love;
Tonight the bottle let me down;
To love somebody;

there's even more, but those are just awesome.


WeightStaff said...

One of the few songs that truly touches the soul and puts life in perspective. Great find.