Jewish songwriter Daniel Antopolsky who was dubbed “missing man of country music’s Outlaw Era,” disappeared off the radar for over forty years before reappearing in France. It was there where he had pulled together years of songs into his first-ever albums. And, he has released three in the last three years.
Sitting with his guitar surrounded by chickens on his small organic farm near Bordeaux, Antopolsky remembers the day well.
“There was a big Christian gathering in the city, so we stopped at a hotel, and each of us worked on our songs,”
He sang “Sweet-Lovin’ Music” to Van Zandt, and his friend said, “It’s a beautiful song. It would make a great title track for an album.”
For nearly half a century later that album was finally recorded in Nashville by the Grammy-winning producer Gary Gold, who called Antopolsky
“a jewel in the rough… a missing piece of our musical culture.”
At the age of 69, He has no great plans to go back on the road especially since he admits to “being afraid of singing in front of people.”
Saving Townes Van Zandt
Antopolsky has put his dreams on hold after Van Zandt. Zandt was a troubled genius whose addictions would later catch up with him and overdosed himself on heroin in front of Antopolsky in Houston in 1972.
The pair, who had been on the road touring together for several months, had been drinking and taking drugs and Antopolsky, then 24, panicked — afraid that his friend was dying and that he would end up in jail.
But he managed to revive Van Zandt and get him to a hospital where doctors saved him.
That was the last time they saw each other. Antopolsky returned to Georgia, and Van Zandt died in 1997 when his heart finally gave out after years of substance abuse. “My fear of needles saved me,” Antopolsky said.
Authentic as ‘early Dylan’
Shaken by the brush with death with Van Zandt, he set out on his spiritual journey on the hippy trail through Iran, Pakistan, and India to Myanmar and beyond.
Returning to the States, he met a young French medical student, Sylvia, and they moved to southwest France’s wine country where they set up an organic farm. She worked as an obstetrician while he did up the old farmhouse.
He continued to write songs at night on his guitar and banjo after their twin girls had gone to sleep.
Speaking to Rolling Stone magazine, Gold said Antopolsky’s ballads have the same authentic quality as “early Dylan stuff.”
“I’m just a songwriter who’s written a lot of songs over a long period who had the benefit of not succeeding. If I’d had success, I don’t think I’d have all these songs. I wouldn’t have the same perspective.”
Unlike his old friend Van Zandt’s sad poetic ballads, Antopolsky’s are more upbeat, hopeful and humorous in the case of the one about his hens.
Despite a documentary about his rediscovery, “The Sheriff of Mars,” and an invitation to play at the prestigious South by Southwest festival in Austin, Antopolsky isn’t about hitched up and start touring again.
He is quite happy to stay on his farm, playing the odd concert and observing the seasons and deer, wild boar and birds that visit his 12 hectares.
“You should be happy with what you have,” said the man with the laughing eyes.
Listen to him as he tells the story of the song “Sweet Loving’ Music”
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