In 1975, “Boulder to Birmingham” appeared on Emmylou Harris’ second studio album and major-label debut, Pieces of the Sky. The heart-rending track later served as one of her signature tunes.
Several artists also covered the song, including Dolly Parton on her 1976 album, All I Can Do. Meanwhile, Joan Baez cut a live version of the song, which appeared on her 1976 live album, From Every Stage.
Meaning Behind The Song
Written by Emmylou Harris and Bill Danoff, “Boulder to Birmingham” is specifically about country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons.
Harris met Parsons in 1971 in a small Washington, DC club where she often performed. Parsons was deeply involved in the rapidly expanding country-rock scene at the time and intended to go on a solo stint after participating in bands.
As expected, Harris and Parsons immediately connected musically and swiftly developed a close friendship. Harris provided beautiful harmonies and backing vocals on Parsons’ solo projects – including his debut solo album, GP, in 1973 and his next and final album, Grievous Angel.
Harris has also joined him on tour across the United States. Their musical synergy was undeniable, reflecting a profound camaraderie that graced both recordings and live performances.
Sadly, things came to a sudden halt in September 1973 when Parsons tragically passed away from an overdose of tequila and morphine during a weekend trip to Joshua Tree, California. This relapse occurred after nearly a year of being sober.
Parsons’s death deeply shook Harris, and she poured that grief into her music, expressing how discovering his passing felt as jarring as “falling off a mountain.”
“Boulder to Birmingham” was actually the only one Harris had a hand in writing for her second album.
So, are you ready for an emotional voyage? Click the video below and let Emmylou Harris’s “Boulder to Birmingham” carry you through a musical odyssey—a heartfelt journey echoing the depths of love and loss.