Gram Parsons – Love Hurts

22nd September 2023 · 1970s, 1973, Country, Music

Fifty years ago this week Gram Parsons died in Room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn in California, filled with morphine, barbiturates and alcohol, at the age of only 26.

It sounds trite to call him the godfather of country-rock but he was certainly one of its founding fathers, along with Neil Young and Bob Dylan, fusing unfashionable country music with the druggier youth appeal of rock’n’roll.

Gram’s legacy is slender in recorded material but vast in influence: six albums recorded between 1968 and 1973, first with The International Submarine Band (one), briefly with The Byrds (one), and finally The Flying Burrito Brothers (two), before going solo (two).

He was a big influence on The Rolling Stones, hanging out with Keith Richard(s) when they recorded Exile On Main Street, and a more obvious one not just pm country-rock bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Poco and The Eagles, but the entire genres of alt-country and Americana that followed.

At the time of his death he had just completed his second solo album, GP, which contains this heartbreakingly sad song, sung with his latterday musical muse Emmylou Harris. As someone says in the comments, it’s “beautifully painful – and painfully beautiful.”

With his long hair, good looks, druggy lifestyle and Nudie suits – not to mention his background as a trust fund kid from one of America’s richest families – Parsons was an iconic cult figure in music history.

He didn’t sell many records in his lifetime, and he probably made more headlines over his death, with his body being stolen and cremated in the desert (according to his wishes) rather than returned to the family from whom he was estranged.

But he’s as ripe for rediscovery today as he has ever been, and anyone who has never heard him should probably start with The Gilded Palace Of Sin, which somehow conjures the place where he might now reside.