While Gram Parsons’ career may be short-lived, his influence for both country and rock was undoubtedly substantial. As AllMusic described it, he’s well-skilled in “blending the two genres to the point that they became indistinguishable from each other.” His interest in music, on the other hand, was shaped by Elvis Presley‘s influence. When he was 10, he saw the King of Rock and Roll performed in Waycross on February 22, 1956. Five years later, he began playing rock and roll covers for several bands. From there, his music career blossomed. Unfortunately, his untimely demise has cut it short.
In 1973, Parsons recorded his second and final solo album entitled Grievous Angel. It’s where his signature song “Return of the Grievous Angel” was released. Thomas Stanley Brown, a young poet from Boston and an avid fan of Parsons composed the song’s lyrics. His album came out in 1974, four months after his death.
Brown, who was studying poetry in Cambridge at the time, has been a huge fan of Parsons. His music inspired him to write a poem and send it to him to consider setting it to music. According to Brown, he composed the lyrics in about twenty minutes. In the summer of 1973, Gram and Emmylou Harris had a performance in a bar called Oliver’s in Boston, Massachusetts. Brown was there and he took the chance to write the wordings to the “Return of the Grievous Angel.” Although the young poet is a devotee of Parsons, he’s quite shy to approach him. Hence, he handed the lyrics to someone named Michael Martin and asked him to give it to Parsons. After doing some revisions on the lyrics and adding some lines, Parsons considered putting a melody to it. The singer recorded the song with Harris and with the backing of the TCB Band.
Ben Fong-Torres, author of Hickory Wind: The Life And Times Of Gram Parsons, has the final words about Parsons and Brown’s lovely song:
“Grievous Angel’ became the album’s signature song. It also served to show how resourceful Gram was when he needed to be, as he applied the perfect, lilting melody to Brown’s words. Whether he did it [by] design or out of desperation, Gram’s resulting set of original songs was brilliant, a dossier of a life lived and deeply felt.”
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Elvis Presley, Gram Parsons, Grievous Angel, Return of the Grievous Angel, Thomas Stanley Brown
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