A Deeper Blue: The Life and Music of Townes Van Zandt

A Deeper Blue: The Life and Music of Townes Van Zandt

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by Robert Earl Hardy
     
 

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 This is the first serious biography of a man widely considered one of Texas’—and America’s—greatest songwriters. Like Jimmie Rodgers, Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, and Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt was the embodiment of that mythic American figure, the troubled troubadour. A Deeper Blue traces Van Zandt’s background as

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Overview

 This is the first serious biography of a man widely considered one of Texas’—and America’s—greatest songwriters. Like Jimmie Rodgers, Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, and Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt was the embodiment of that mythic American figure, the troubled troubadour. A Deeper Blue traces Van Zandt’s background as the scion of a prominent Texas family; his troubled early years and his transformation from promising pre-law student to wandering folk singer; his life on the road and the demons that pursued and were pursued by him; the women who loved and inspired him; and the brilliance and enduring beauty of his songs, which are explored in depth.
 
The author draws on eight years’ extensive research and interviews with Townes’ family and closest friends and colleagues. He looks beyond the legend and paints a colorful portrait of a complex man who embraced the darkness of demons and myth as well as the light of deep compassion and humanity, all “for the sake of the song.”

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Writer and musician Hardy offers the second recent biography of the uncompromising Texas singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt (1944-97), following John Kruth's 2007 To Live's To Fly. Both books examine similar terrain in Van Zandt's personal history, music, and the demons that plagued him throughout his life. In this extensively researched and footnoted book, Hardy states that Van Zandt's "craft was inextricable from his life," and he is particularly adept at setting the context of Van Zandt's life within the musical scenes in which he lived and worked, all the while illustrating the intersection of his personal life and the creative process. Like Kruth, Hardy interviewed many of those who were close to Van Zandt, but Hardy's writing is more streamlined, and his reliance on narrative creates a smoother flow. Smaller libraries that own To Live's To Fly may not need both titles, but Hardy's is certainly recommended for libraries with strong popular culture collections and especially those without material on the legendary Van Zandt.
—Jim Collins

Kirkus Reviews
Honest, unbiased look at the troubled career and existence of one of America's greatest songwriters and performers. Beginning with the Van Zandt family's deep roots in Texas, debut author Hardy draws on interviews with relatives and friends to delve into the surprisingly normal childhood of Townes Van Zandt (1944-97). An avid reader and school vice president, his life changed in 1956 when he received his first guitar, a Christmas gift from his father. Roaming around the country, Van Zandt continued to hone his craft and his sensibility: "Townes felt things more than the rest of us did. It was deeper, somehow," his sister claimed. From here, Hardy moves on to discuss the amusing and cloudy story of Van Zandt's first recording contract, "bizarre even by industry standards." The resulting overproduced album, For the Sake of the Song, showcased a problem that would plague the artist for years: The music industry didn't know what to make of his unique talents. He was one of a number of musicians, including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Emmylou Harris, who in the mid-'70s were shaking up Nashville-and moving the center of authentic country music toward Van Zandt's native Texas-with rougher, more challenging material. But Van Zandt sometimes sabotaged his chances with reckless behavior. He struggled with bipolar disorder, and marriage and fatherhood did nothing to curb his appetite for drugs, alcohol and extramarital affairs. Hardy delineates the musician's chaotic life in honest, often dramatic detail, but always brings the attention and focus back to Van Zandt's music and the classic songs he penned, including "St. John the Gambler," "Our Mother the Mountain" and "Tecumseh Valley."Steering through the myths and legends, the author depicts a troubled individual and gifted artist who inspired many singers and songwriters in the alternative country scene. A poignant, clear and vivid portrait.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781574412475
Publisher:
University of North Texas Press
Publication date:
04/28/2008
Series:
North Texas Lives of Musician Series
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

ROBERT EARL HARDY has been a professional writer for twenty-five years, with articles on twentieth century American music and the arts published in newspapers, journals, and magazines, most recently in The Oxford American. Also a musician, since the 1970s, Mr. Hardy has played guitar in rock & roll, rhythm & blues, and honky-tonk bands in the Washington, DC, area. He lives in Laurel, Maryland.

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