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.