Bargain Bin Book Review: Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons

hickory_wind.jpg Sometimes it seems that Gram Parsons is remembered for everything other than what he was really all about. Whether it’s as the guy who introduced country music and Nudie suits to The Byrds, or being Keith Richards coke-addled buddy hanging out in the South of France or his infamous death and fiery funeral pyre at Joshua Tree National Monument, it seems to me that Gram Parsons the musician has gotten the short end of the stick in the memories department. Gram Parsons was passionate about country music but lived in a rock ‘n’ roll world. “Hickory Wind : The Life and Times of Graham Parsons” by Ben Fong-Torres is an attempt to portray Gram as something other than a rock and roll trivia question and for the most part it succeeds. Perhaps dwelling a bit too much on the dramatic parts of Parsons life, “Hickory Wind” is written by a man who obviously admires Parsons work and the best thing to do in my opinion would be to read a couple of chapters then pop Gp/Grievous Angel on the CD player to get a better understanding of where Parsons was coming from musically. While greatly admired by critics, I would often ask people who Gram Parsons was and the answer would inevitably have something to do with his death, covered in detail in The Strange Death of Gram Parsons: 1973 from the excellent Byrds fan site Byrd Watcher. When I would ask them if they knew of any of Parsons’ solo work and I would often be met by blank stares. This book is for them. I don’t think there is another musician in rock and roll that has had such an influence on the genre referred to as “Country Rock” or “Alt-Country” and yet is as widely unknown as Gram Parsons. Pick up this book either in the bargain bin like I did or at a place like Amazon in the new expanded edition (which has new details on his death of course) and prepare to read the tale of a country boy gone rock and roll who could never seem to rise above those around him to take his rightful place in rock and roll history. A true rock and roll tragedy. Thank God we still have his music since after all, that is the most important and lasting legacy that Gram Parsons could have possibly bequeathed to this world. A true pioneer of Cosmic American Music, he is sadly missed.