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Grievous Angel: An Intimate Biography of Gram Parsons

By Jessica Hundley with Polly Parsons

Thunder's Mouth Press, 264 pages, $15.95 softcover

Reviewed by David McPherson, March 2006

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Blessed with talent and money, troubadour Gram Parsons was one of those tortured souls that never could bury his demons and focus solely on his music - letting drugs and alcohol take control of his muse.

Despite this shortcoming, the musician often dubbed "cosmic cowboy" for his fusion of folk and country sounds while embracing the psychedelic fashion of the Sixties, left an incredible inventory of songs before he died at the all too young age of 26 in 1973.

While Parsons never received the kudos he deserved during his recording career, in the last few years, thanks to his only daughter Polly Parsons, his music has been resurrected and brought to a new generation of fans; from an all-star tribute concert in Los Angeles a couple of years ago to this biography. Co-written with freelance writer Jessica Hundley, "Grievous Angel" paints a painful, yet passionate portrait of the man behind the songs - from his formative years growing up an upper class boy in Florida and Georgia to his arrival in the City of Angels.

From his brief stint with The Byrds and his work with the band's he fronted such as the International Submarine Band and the Flying Burrito Brothers, the book brings to light all the facets of Parson's musical life. Part biography and part scrapbook, the authors weave Parson's tale in minute detail in a chronological fashion and intersperse this narrative with interviews of other contemporary musicians such as Steve Earle, Willie Nelson and Elvis Costello to show the influence and the impact he left on other songwriters.

The book is also filled with intimate pictures of Parsons and love letters written as a teenager. Overall, "Grievous Angel" is a well-written and welcome volume that aims to keep Parson's music and the impact it left on generations of songwriters to come alive for today's music lovers. And, for that alone, this book is a must read.