>Date:  Fri, 3 Jan 1997 14:18:35 -0600 (CST)
>From:  "James M. Kohel" 
>To:    CBGBs@gnn.com (Dave Jenkins)
>Subject:       Townes
>You most likely have heard the news by now but I thought you might be 
>interested this article from www.austin360.com
>... jim
>                              Townes Van Zandt
>                a songwriter's songwriter, is dead at age 52
>    By Michael Corcoran American-Statesman Music Writer
>    Austin's music community was overcome with sadness, if not surprise, 
>    at the news that Townes Van Zandt, whose rich narrative style 
>    influenced a generation of Texas songwriters, died of a heart attack 
>    Wednesday night at his home near Nashville.
>    His young daughter, Katie Belle, "came running in and said, 'Daddy's 
>    having a fight with his heart,' "Beverly Paul of Van Zandt's Sugar 
>    Hill label said.  "They rushed into the room and Townes was already 
>    gone."
>    The writer of such country hits as "Pancho and Lefty" (Merle Haggard 
>    and Willie Nelson) and "If I Needed You" (Emmylou Harris and Don 
>    Williams) was 52.
>    It wasn't the hits, however, but a stark and penetrating body of work 
>    that gave Van Zandt the reputation as a songwriter's songwriter.  Such 
>    early Van Zandt albums as 1968's "For the Sake of the Song" and 1969's 
>    "Our Mother the Mountain" inspired such Texas songsmiths as Steve 
>    Earle, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Nanci Griffith, Robert Earl Keen, Lyle 
>    Lovett and Lucinda Williams.
>    Earle took his worship of Van Zandt public, allowing his assessment 
>    that "Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and 
>    I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that" 
>    to be stickered on the cover of Van Zandt's 1987 LP "At My Window."
>    Many of Van Zandt's friends and admirers, from constant touring 
>    companion Guy Clark to protege Will Sexton, declined to comment on the 
>    sad occasion.  Gilmore spoke for many, however, when he said, "I think 
>    that Townes Van Zandt will one day be recognized as one of the great 
>    American poets of the 20th century.  It's a shame that he died too 
>    young to see that."
>    But Van Zandt knew that his lot was to be a cult hero.
>    "I remember him saying to me that he was afraid he was going to be like 
>    Hank Williams, and people were only going to know who he was after he 
>    was dead," Gilmore said.  Ironically, Van Zandt died on New Year's Day, 
>    the same date Williams was pronounced dead 44 years earlier.
>                            Battle with alcohol
>    New York Times writer Robert Palmer drew out the parallels between Van 
>    Zandt and his hero Williams in a June 7, 1987, article.
>    "Both men live in their music, as if singing and writing and being 
>    human were the same thing and as natural as breathing," Palmer wrote.  
>    He described the music of both Williams and Van Zandt as "the direct, 
>    untrammeled expression of a man's soul."
>    A common trait between the two songwriting beacons of different eras 
>    was an affinity for alcohol and drugs.  Van Zandt's battle with the 
>    bottle was ongoing, as he slipped in and out of sobriety -- sometimes 
>    during the break between sets.  But even as he slurred the cornball 
>    jokes that he used as comic relief, Van Zandt was capable of compelling 
>    musical performances, with such down-and-out songs as "Marie," "Tower 
>    Song" and "Still Lookin' For You" appropriately darkened by Van Zandt's 
>    state.
>    "The songs were always there," said Griff Luneberg, manager of the 
>    Cactus, which hosted countless Van Zandt concerts.  "No matter what 
>    shape Townes was in, he had the songs, and that's what people came to 
>    hear."  Luneberg recalls Van Zandt's final Austin show, at the Cactus 
>    on Oct. 12, as "pure magic."
>    "It was a classic Townes show," Luneberg said, almost too choked up to 
>    talk.  "The audience hung on every word, and they sent back this huge 
>    outpouring of appreciation after every song.  They even laughed at his 
>    jokes, which are the same jokes he'd been telling for 20 years."  On a 
>    good night, Van Zandt packed the charm of a brilliant rascal.
>    Although his career was on an upswing, especially in Europe, Van 
>    Zandt's health had been unstable in recent years.  At the time of his 
>    death, he was at home in the Nashville suburb of Smyrna recuperating 
>    from hip surgery.  But his drinking was the cause for most concern.
>    "I had expected a call about Townes for a few years," Jerry Jeff 
>    Walker said.  "Today I got that call.  It's still very sad when it 
>    comes."
>                             Drifters' stories
>    He was born John Townes Van Zandt in Fort Worth on March 7, 1944.  
>    While he was raised in a prominent Texas oil family, Van Zandt began 
>    his rebel ways as a teen-ager, picking up the guitar after seeing Elvis 
>    Presley on TV, then later expanding his influences to include Woody 
>    Guthrie and Lightnin' Hopkins.
>    Soon after high school, the gaunt songwriter ran from the mansion on 
>    the hill to the railroad tracks, from comfort to danger, and started 
>    writing songs about the desperate drifters and life's losers he met in 
>    his travels.
>    "He was a completely ornery guy," said longtime friend and fan Joe 
>    Ely.  "He didn't seem to do anything for any reason except for the 
>    purpose of writing another song.  ...  He came on this earth to play 
>    music, and it didn't matter what shape he was in, he always damn well 
>    fulfilled his goal.  And he affected a lot of people by doing it."
>    The brilliant yet approachable Van Zandt was a magnet for other musical 
>    storytellers, and he helped establish the "couch circuit" for drifting 
>    musicians.  He shared a lot of himself onstage, and when he stepped 
>    off, the songwriting community was there to share what they could with 
>    him.
>    "I really, honestly believe Townes was one of the main reasons Austin 
>    received a reputation for quality," Gilmore said.
>    Van Zandt provided not only the link between Hank Williams and Bruce 
>    Springsteen, but between people who shared appreciation for him.  
>    Gilmore and Ely might seem to have been tight since junior high in 
>    Lubbock, but it was Van Zandt who helped solidify the musical 
>    partnership.
>    Gilmore said he and Ely had been only casual acquaintances until the 
>    day Ely called him up and told him about a hitchhiker he pickedup who 
>    had a backpack full of his own records.
>    "Joe called me up and said, 'You gotta hear this.'  And of course, it 
>    was Townes Van Zandt's record, 'Our Mother the Mountain,'" Gilmore 
>    said.  "I think what affected us most was the intelligence of it.  And 
>    I guess you could say that was the catalyst for a lifelong friendship 
>    and appreciation for (Van Zandt's music)."
>    Van Zandt's influence on Nashville, where his songs have been recorded 
>    by Emmylou Harris, Doc Watson, Steve Earle and others, was almost as 
>    strong as in Texas.
>    "The people he had an influence on in Nashville were the ones who broke 
>    the rules, and they're the people who truly matter here," said veteran 
>    singer Jonell Mosser, who recorded "Around Townes," a soulful tribute 
>    to the singer early last year.
>    One of Ely's favorite recent memories of Van Zandt comes from an 
>    Italian folk festival that they both played two years ago.  Headliner 
>    Ely called Van Zandt on stage to play one last song, and he couldn't 
>    get him to leave.
>    "I was like, 'Thank you, good night,' but Townes had already gotten his 
>    feet planted," Ely said.  "He wasn't going anywhere, and we just kept 
>    playing and playing, whether we both knew the song or not.  I think we 
>    played 10 last songs that night, and it was great.  He just wouldn't 
>    stop."
>    The songs are always there, providing some comfort in the grief, and 
>    one in particular found Van Zandt looking back with some satisfaction 
>    on a life like none other.  On "A Song For," the lead-off track of 
>    his most recent CD, 1994's "No Deeper Blue," Van Zandt sang:
>    "London to Dublin/ Australia to Perth/ I gazed at your sky/ I tasted 
>    your earth/ Sung out my heart/ For what it was worth/ Never again shall 
>    I ramble."
>    Funeral arrangements are pending, but Mosser said she's been told that 
>    there will be a memorial service Sunday at 3 p.m. in Nashville.
>    Van Zandt is survived by wife Jeanene, sons J.T. and Will and daughter 
>    Katie Belle.
>        Interviews of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Jonell Mosser 
>                      by Chris Riemenschneider.
>                    Copyright 1997, Cox Interactive Media, Inc.  
>                            All rights reserved.