March 12

Commemorating Townes Van Zandt with his 1969 Song “Lungs”

Commemorating Townes Van Zandt with his 1969 Song "Lungs" 1

Last March 7 would have been Townes Van Zandt’s 74th birthday. Even though the songwriter’s no longer around, his country music influence and legacy continue to thrive in our hearts and memories. Many of his tunes vividly depicted his troubled existence. Despite the often gloomy themes of his compositions, the Texas outlaw country pioneer was considered America’s true voice of country music. Many of his fellow country music legends covered a number of his penned songs. In addition to his timeless outlaw ballad, “Pancho and Lefty,” here’s another legacy of Van Zandt. The song is called “Lungs” which he recorded in 1969. It mainly tackles his struggles with the symptoms brought by his illness and its treatment.

A Song That Tells What He’s Went Through Physically

After Van Zandt was diagnosed with schizophrenia with manic-depression disease in the early ‘60s, the singer has since undergone insulin coma therapy (ICT) to treat his ailment. During this clinical treatment, the patient experiences the following symptoms: slow and stertorous breathing, severe sweating, the rise in temperature, the absence of corneal and pupillary reflexes and lost deep tendon reflexes, among others. Another major side effect of ICT is retrograde anemia. Consequently, three months after Van Zandt’s discharge from the hospital, he lost a huge part of his memory.

When he wrote the song “Lungs” in 1969, Van Zandt may not have remembered what he went through during the ICT treatment. But the song he wrote actually drew a shabby breath all its own. “Lungs” appeared on his third and self-titled album, Townes Van Zandt. To commemorate the singer’s birth month, once again, let’s listen to his tune.


Additional Trivia

Prior to Van Zandt’s treatments, he was a promising college student. Coming from a well-off family, his parents prepared him to become a lawyer or a politician. However, Van Zandt spent the rest of his life writing many of the greatest and timeless hits in country music.

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Lungs, Townes Van Zandt

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