This is a great site with some of the best songs. My personal favorites: “$1000 Wedding,” and “Kiss the Children.”

Here’s a video featuring Gram and the Flying Burrito Brothers with their rendition of “Sin City,” another favorite.

American Master

Although Gram despised the phrase “country rock,” this is really what he contributed to American popular music. After many years of neglect, there are now several biographies of him and much of his material is available on CD, even from the days of the International Submarine Band. Born into relative privilege (Florida orange juice fortune), he was one of the few rock stars to have a trust fund, and one of the fewer still to attend Harvard. He grew up in the South, but country music was something he learned about, not natural to him, just like the extravagant and campy Nudie Cohen leather suits he had especially made for him. It is hard to keep in mind that he was in his early twenties when he wrote and played and recorded most of his best material: with the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, as a solo act, and with Emmylou Harris. His descent into drug addiction and ridiculous death at the age of twenty-six was all too typical of the time in which he lived, as was the excess of the Viking funeral that an acquaintance gave him. In spite of this sadness, his music is largely happy, salutary stuff that usually makes people smile. We were fortunate to have him, especially to enjoy so much of his music. Here is a brief biography, a highly recommended documentary, and the starter album I would suggest, The Gram Parsons Anthology (2001). The definitive scholarly life has yet to be written.

Gram at Nellcôte with the Stones, 1971

One of the highlights of Gram’s life was undoubtedly his few weeks with the Rolling Stones at Villa Nellcôte in the South of France (Summer, 1971), while they were in the process of recording their legendary—and some think their greatest—album, Exile on Main St.(1972). It has been said that he tutored Keith Richards in the art of country music as early as 1968, the alleged evidence the second side of the two-LP set, which includes songs such as “Sweet Virginia,” “Torn and Frayed,” and “Loving Cup” (personal favorite). However, English musicians such as Keith had heard a good bit of this native American music in their childhoods, when soldiers stationed in Britain brought their records and left them, which helped make this art form popular. Chances are, they simply shared what they knew with each other, and it is unfortunate that Gram did not live to cultivate his relationship with this excellent musician. The women pictured here are Anita Pallenberg, who needs no introduction, and Gretchen Burrell, later Mris. Gram.