Monday, May 17, 2010

Yeah, I'll Be Right Here to Love You

About a week ago, the old man and I watched a documentary on one of my favorite folk singers, Townes Van Zandt. Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt really disappoints. I kinder wish I hadn't seen it because I found Van Zandt rather annoying and immature. It's such a strange thing when a beautiful songwriter is anything but that. A tag line for the film reads: what would you sacrifice to follow your dream? I didn't see him sacrifice anything: all his various women raised his various children while he was out a-singin' and a-ramblin'. It seemed as though his only dream was to have someone waiting at home for him while he was on the road. The film mentions only once Van Zandt's heroin addiction. Toward the end of the film and of his life, various figures talked about how his alcoholism affected his performances, but none of them went into great detail, saying that he got a little talky on stage toward the end.

As the movie went on, I got to thinkin' about Emmylou Harris. When she first started out, she was only one of a handful of women folk singers. I thought it was interesting how she's been in so many bands and sang back-up for men like Townes Van Zandt. I wondered what that was like, if she's more like them, more like their wives, or something else entirely. So, what is she really allowed to say about them? And what does it say about her? Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt have a whole lot of addiction in common. (As an aside, Harris actually credits Linda Ronstadt for being the driving force that led to Harris' first recording contract). The old man and I talked about Harris at great length after watching the film and talked about other artists and writers who were burning down their lives while their children were being raised by someone else. One of the only women, we could think of, who left her children while in pursuit of her own interests is Muriel Spark.

Townes Van Zandt was one of those characters who makes you think about whether you're stricken with life or stricken with death--so afraid to live that you destroy yourself until you die. Looking down the smoky path he burned, I wonder of what it was Townes Van Zandt was so afraid.


Peggy said...

I suppose those shock treatments that erased all memory of his childhood could goof someone up a fair amount for starters.

Farrah Field said...

Peggy--you're so right and I feel completely remiss for leaving that out. Of course, the shock treatments, the void he was dealing with his whole life. It gives a new perspective on choice. I remember when I quit smoking, how really hard it was, and how it was ten times harder because I lived with a smoker at the time. Given Townes' shock therapy, given that his inhibitions, his own mind that had been rewired, it kind of puts friends and family into a whole new light. Since what I know of him is in the film, what I wonder is why the film didn't address these complicated issues more deeply.

steven karl said...

What about Kate Chopin- or am I mixing up my fictions & realities?

Kinda nice thinking about how Harris functions in Kim Gek Lin Short's chapbook, Run, esp. with the blurred line of submission vs ownership.

eunuch said...

It's incredible the gangplanks we keep adding an extra foot of wood to to forgive artists. Im the worst of all.

Farrah, have you read this ? -

I've a copy I can send.

Farrah Field said...

Steven! I miss you!

Not sure about how Chopin treated her, count them, six children. Her house which recently burned down was about 20 mins from my parents' house in Cloutierville (pronounced kloocheeville!). I know her husband stuck her with debt when he died and she was living with her mother who died a year later. Did you know Chopin died at aged 54 of a brain hemorage?

I'm going to read run. The old man just did and loved it. J, where is it? Thought you packed it fer me.

Farrah Field said...

Eunuch--Thanks for mentioning the book. I thought it serendipitous that the pw review of it said something about how TVZ was a gambler, a drinker, a womenizer, as the book is compiled by stories of such, but never seems to address the why. And that is exactly my point about the film. It seems as though everyone wants to carry on the drunk cowboy mythology. None of TVZ's friends talked about the shock therapy. The language used really glosses over the ugly. (The first wife says, "I couldn't take it anymore." What's it exactly? His being gone? Dis she not want to drink anymore? Did he physically hurt her?)

Addiction is complicated and you'd think a filmmaker would attempt to address it from all angles. All the thinking I've done re: Be Here to Love Me was from thinking about what wasn't in the film. I can say for certain that if TVZ were a woman who drank away her life and gambled away all her money, no matter that there were children to support, well I don't think it would have been as forgiving a film.

Eunuch, I'm awful sorry for your heartahe. Everyone is quick to judge, hell we know I'm guilty of that, but the fact remains that everyone wants to love and be loved. And turning your back on someone spiraling out of control, well shoot, there just aren't words to describe how painful that is. Thanks for writing in today. By the way, I love your name.

I don't think one film about one tormented singer I'm not sure there's oanswer as to why it takes over someone's life.

steven karl said...

Miss you too! Saw the "old man" yesterday and passed on my regards:)

I didn't know that Chopin lived 20 minutes from your parents house. Did you ever visit it?

Farrah Field said...

No! I had such a shitty education I never even heard about her until college!!