Townes Van Zandt is one of the most influential singers and songwriters of the Americana movement. His fans still celebrate him today as one of the greatest of all time, who never achieved the fame he deserved. Tribute concerts in his honor are also held regularly in Indianapolis. Most recently, during the MOKB Sun King Concert Series, local talents paid respect to the great troubadour and his songs.
Seldom has an artist biography touched people as much as that of Townes Van Zandt. The musician never wanted to do anything other than write songs and perform. He was never interested in success or money. At the same time, his life was a roller coaster of disasters and Van Zandt died at only 52. A film documentary titled Townes Van Zandt – Be Here to Love me illustrated his life and art 15 years ago.
To this day, the musician has a sworn fan base who ritually adores him and his music. The most famous of these is undoubtedly Bob Dylan. He referred to Van Zandt in his music a lot, but for a long time, however, he never had the opportunity to see Van Zandt live. Dylan resorted to a trick to meet him. He invited Van Zandt to play exclusively for him, and the shy Texan agreed. So, it resulted in several meetings between the two musicians, who valued each other tremendously.
Other Musicians Became Famous with His Songs
Apart from Bob Dylan, there were other artists who made Townes Van Zandt songs famous too. Their hits gave Van Zandt the money he needed to survive at times. The renowned musician came from one of the wealthiest, most famous, and most influential families in Texas and one of his ancestors founded the largest state in the United States. But Van Zandt was never interested in family wealth and business. For many years, he lived in a hut in the forest, away from the big show business.
If you look at his biography today, it is clear that Van Zandt was a troubled individual too. Alcohol, threats, psychological problems, and multiple near-death experiences shaped the musician’s life and the doctors always brought him back to life. His fans will never forget his songs like Kathleen, Pancho and Lefty, and the prophetic Waiting Around to Die. They became hits through numerous cover versions. Van Zandt himself, on the other hand, never managed to become a big star.
Many of his colleagues considered him a gifted musician. These include, for example, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Earle, and Guy Clarke. But Van Zandt’s urge to self-destruct was overwhelming throughout his life and it shone through in his lyrics from the start. He once said that life would end before he can finish his job. Another quote shows the musician’s dry sense of humor, which also made him an admired storyteller. In an interview, Van Zandt said: I don’t think all of my songs are sad. I have a few who are not unhappy – they are hopeless. Such philosophy of life made him also a role model for new musicians. Many of them from grunge and indie scene covered the songwriter and thus kept his memory alive.