Sunday, April 23, 2006

New music for me.

Townes Van Zandt is on my mind lately. It started a few weeks ago when Sarah Jane—I wish she would give me the link to her blog—gave Cath and me a mix with his “If I Needed You” on it. Then, in one of those coincidences that life gives you, friend Joe Rocchio writes an email about a documentary that features him. Netflix sent me the movie and I couldn’t get any further into it than a scene where he sings “Dollar Bill Blues” before I had to turn it off and go google the chords for it. What a great song.

It seems like that’s the main way I play the guitar these days; my calluses will have faded from disuse and then I hear a nice song that sounds just easy enough for me to pick so I figure out about ¾ of it by playing it over and over. Soon I will forget I ever knew it. Right now, though, my fingers hurt again from trying to learn the chords well enough so that I can sing along:

If I had a dollar bill

Yes I believe I surely will

Go to town and drink my fill

Early in the morning.

Townes, though, he’s a sad story. Usually, I’m suspicious of upper middle class fellers who go country—and this guy was rich—because it doesn’t seem authentic enough. They make me think of the Kingston Trio, maybe; poseurs. Townes, though, was messed up enough that you have believe the tragic warble in his voice. He tells a story in this movie, for example, about a time when he fell asleep with three tubes of airplane glue that he’d been huffing in his mouth. It solidified and stuck his mouth shut and to get it open he claims that the doctor took a hammer to his face. “This is going to hurt,” he said. You do shite like that to your body and you earn the right to sing about pain.

There is an interesting segment in the movie where he remembers first realizing that he could “make it” with the guitar. He realized, he said, that if he was willing to give up everything, he could do it. And he means everything: his family, kids, money, and his own “personal happiness”. I had my own realization then that maybe the reason I will never make it big with my, well, anything, is that I’m not willing to sacrifice both my own happiness and well-being as well as that of my loved ones. I guess I just lack ambition; I’ll have to try to get along in this world armed only with some modest measure of personal happiness and a decent family. Wish me luck.


Oden, Miles said...

Living on the road my friend
Was gonna keep you free and clean
Now you wear your skin like iron
Your breath's as hard as kerosene
You weren't your mama's only boy
But her favorite one it seems
She began to cry when you said goodbye
And sank into your dreams

Almighty Ryan said...

I'm definitely interested in finding out more about this guy. My interested has been tapped.

sarahjane said...

this is good news.

we have another dvd with townes that you should watch--"heartworn highways." it's this country music documentary from the 70's with townes and guy clark and everybody else drinkin' and causin' a ruckus.