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September 19, 1973

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Gram Parsons died 40 years ago today, at the age of 26.

An brief appreciation, with links to six other songs.

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  • howard

    “gilded palace of sin” remains one of my all-time favorite albums, one of the rather short list of albums that i listened to regularly in college 40 years ago and still listen to on a regular basis (at least in playlists) now.

    • It is a great album but “Hippie Boy” may be the all-time worst song on a great album.

      We may have had this discussion before.

      • Thoughts on this? I think it’s great, btw.

        • I’ve always been pretty whatever about the tribute album. It’s OK. I own it but never listen to it. If a song comes up on shuffle, that’s fine.

      • howard

        we haven’t, but conceptually we could have, and i almost said “particularly side one” to get around that problem….

      • pete

        Kind of cheating, but I nominate “You Know My Name” on the Past Masters Vol. 2 compilation by The Beatles.

        Other than that, it’s hard to disagree but I’d love to hear suggestions.

        • the original flip side of let it be? just to show you de gustibus in action, i also loved this little piece of lennonist acid-damaged nonsense and enjoyed finding it in jukeboxes and playing it over the next few years after its release.

      • Thom

        “Farmer John,” on Ragged Glory?

  • Calming Influence

    A loss mourned far more by talented musicians and songwriters (then and now), than by listeners who stumble into his work “on shuffle”.

    Songs on record albums weren’t arranged randomly, nor meant to be mixed randomly in with thousands of other songs. Talented DJs put together playlists that bring out the best of each song. “Shuffle” was the hideous brainchild of some tone-deaf engineer trying to cram new “features” into the early CD players. I hope he died in an electrical fire.

    • Lee Rudolph

      Sir or madam as the case may be: thank you. You have captured my feelings on “shuffle” perfectly.

      • Richard

        I disagree. Shuffle has a real beneficial effect since it often presents a song to me that I had forgot about, hadnt listened to in ages and would have been unlikely to listen to by willful decision. Just today at the gym, I was knocked out by the brilliance of Gin Mill Blues by The Hokum Boys, Popurri Ranchero by Lola Beltran and Sold Down the River by Michael Cleveland. Without shuffle, I simply wouldn’t have chosen those songs to listen to, having forgotten how good they were.

        • mark f

          Richard is correct.

        • pete

          Overall, I’m with you. I frequently hit shuffle and then stop it when something comes up that makes me want to hear the rest of the album. On the other hand, I do miss albums. On the third hand, I was raised on singles. Which is one reason why I put up with mp3 distortion, but that’s another story.

        • Exactly. When you have sizable collections, it gets pretty easy to forget what you have. I have albums, especially world music compilations and old time Appalachian recordings from the 20s, that I’m pretty unlikely to listen to all the way through. But if I’m hanging out listening to shuffle, these are going to come up and I can remember what a great song this or that is.

          I don’t listen to shuffle all the time by any means. But it has its place. It’s like a personal jukebox.

          • i’ve mentioned before that the only way i don’t lose track of what i own is that i have a number of playlists that essentially serve as personal radio or jukeboxes, and i distribute material into the proper playlist and then tend to play shuffle within those playlists.

            the idea that songs should only heard in their original context, so to speak: wow, how…hard to understand.

        • OmerosPeanut

          This is why enlightened players allow a “shuffle by album” option that preserves track order within each random pick.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      “shuffle” makes an album into less than the sum of its parts

      I still prefer radio – probably because I’m lucky enough to have a couple of locally owned and operated stations that pride themselves on fairly diverse playlists. I can still be surprised by something, still have that sense of anticipation waiting for it to be played again so I can find out who that new voice or guitar is, still have that sense of shared pleasure that someone else thinks this is a good tune

      • most albums are less than the some of their parts, let’s not kid ourselves. there have been, what, millions of albums released over time? yes, some of them are majestic works of art that are most powerful when consumed whole.

        but lots of them are no such thing.

        and what i’ve learned is that even albums that i’ve owned since they were new and defining the idea of an album being greater than the sum of its parts – albums like the first lp i ever bought, “rubber soul,” or “blonde on blonde,” or “astral weeks” – turn out to be survive being part of a larger playlist in which they are shuffled.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          we’re talking about a couple of different things, I think. Personally, if I’m going to listen to an album front to back I’d as soon hear it in the order the artist intended – and some, like the live Dire Straits album “Alchemy”, are going to sound *totally* fucked up on shuffle

          but yeah, if I had tens of thousands of hand picked songs in the queue, they’d probably be shuffled as well. why not? as I said earlier, I’m a radio guy at heart

          • jim, you’re right about that: on those rare moments when i just listen to an album straight through, i listen to it straight through!

            but those are rare moments these days.

        • Richard

          Howard is right. Plus there is the fact that much of the music I listen to precedes the advent of albums. Two of the songs I reference above which just knocked me out today when they came up on shuffle- Hokum Boys and Lola Beltran – were originally issued on 78s. I still buy CDs (got four just yesterday) and almost never download individual songs, but probably half of my listening is on shuffle mode at the gym or late at night in bed.

          • and of course, richard, as i’m sure you know but probably many here don’t, the original “albums” were simply boxes of 78s….

      • rea

        I personally never listen to Beethovan’s 5th Symphony without first playing the 6th Symphony and the 4th Piano Concerto, just like Beethovan intended.

  • It’s also worth remembering his role in launching the career of Emmylou Harris.

  • mark f

    I’m so old I remember when someone argued in a comment thread on this site that Billy Ray Cyrus was too better.

    • nixnutz

      Even I wouldn’t go that far, I own hundreds of country records and CDs and Parsons is, by quite a large margin, the worst singer in my collection and his covers are uniformly terrible but he was a decent writer and at least he was doing a shitty job of emulating decent music.

      I think he was the worst thing that had happened to country music at the time he was alive but things took a bad turn somewhere in the 80s and he ended up looking almost credible. Still he makes Olivia Newton John look like Kitty Wells.

      • Richard

        I also have hundreds of country records and agree he was no great shakes as a singer. And I have never liked the acclaim given to him as the first long haired hippy to embrace country music. Me and my college friends, and many more like us, embraced country and blues before Gram. But he was a fine songwriter and brought attention to country greats like the Louvins and discovered Emmylou. He had a beneficial effect on rock and country.

        • pete

          He had his moments as a singer, and the main thing he did was create and project a character, an attitude. That he did this while simultaneously (pretending [trying] to be) both singing straight country and keeping up with Keith Richard (which he couldn’t, quite) … well, it was a form of genius. He saw something about this country and he loved it and it made him crazy. Just look at the cover of Gilded Palace of Sin; and think about the title. And, yes, he had a beneficial effect on both rock and country; a huge one, often indirectly.

          • Thom

            So few people can keep up with Keith that they tend to leave the “s” off his last name.

            Meanwhile, to Eric’s main point, GP is missed and we’re lucky to have had him.

            • pete

              In my defense, Keith was Richard at the time

              • Thom

                Didn’t know that, thanks.

          • As I understand it, Richards kicked him out of the Exile on Main Street sessions because he was doing to much drugs. So he was not only keeping up, he was passing Richards.

  • Thom

    Oops, Erik!

    • You’ve still got a weird way of spelling “Paul.”

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