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The Life & Afterlife
of Gram Parsons

Lovers of music and folklore rejoice

For here is the tale of a hero whose voice

Transcends time and space with a heartbreaking timbre

Cracking yet commanding, hard not to remember

In a Nudie suit made of white cavalry twill

Embroidered with women and many a pill

In addition to poppies and cannabis leaves

And LSD sugar cubes cov’ring the sleeves

Gram Parsons was he, a young, glum musician

With a plan to pull heartstrings, so high on ambition

Along with some other things, cocaine and liquor

And anything else that would help him die quicker

For it ran through his veins, an apparent depression

That seeped from his voice in each studio session

For when Gram was just twelve, his dad took his life

Deserting the lad, his home riddled in strife

Gram’s mother remarried but drank to cessation

And died the same day as his high school graduation

With his stepdad a junkie, Gram nurtured his sister

But was sent off for schooling, and o how he missed her!

At college in Cambridge, on the radio Gram

Heard a song by Merle Haggard and stopped giving a damn

About being studious and picked up guitar

And started a band with a folk repertoire

They moved to New York, and then to L.A.

And then they broke up, but that was okay

For there was a lass who’d caught Gram’s fancy:

Dave Crosby’s girlfriend at the time, Nancy

And once Gram stole her, completely unplanned

He then went on to take David’s place in his band

So Gram started playing with folksters The Byrds

Tickling the ivories and writing some words

To songs that would go on to earn worthy praise

And after one album, he and them parted ways

Then ‘round The Rolling Stones, Gram soon did hang

Visiting Stonehenge, they got high and sang

And when the men heard all Parsons could play

Keith Richards offered to let the boy stay

At the ol’ rocker’s home, a drug user’s delight

And trying out heroin there, Gram would write

Sweet, soothing songs in his ethereal state

Including “Wild Horses,” which Keith couldn’t wait

To play to Mick Jagger, who’d then sing along

And eventually record and take credit for the song

But Gram was unfazed, for he’d gone on to gather

Artists for a neither country nor rock but rather

Country-rock band, the first of its kind

Playing folk, gospel, soul, and psych-rock combined

The Flying Burrito Brothers was what they were called

And their first LP left Bob Dylan enthralled

Recording it all made for merry work

And the band’s antics drove their producer berserk

For in the studio were liquor bottles abound

Clouds of groupies’ ganja smoke loomed all around

And difficulties in finding a drummer arose

Because, while recording, as the story goes

Their first drummer got so unbearably high

That he’d fall from his stool, and as much as they’d try

To get him to play, there was no way he could

So his bandmates agreed that he’d best leave for good

Three drummers later, the album was done

But commercially it didn’t have that good of a run

And touring for promotion also proved tiring

As they’d transit by train due to Gram’s requiring

That they do so, for he was afraid of air travel

And as the weeks went on, his health would unravel

But made-up with a mane, he fronted the act

An androgynous outlaw to whom crowds would react

In awe or in fear of his feminized semblance

Some screamed, “Goddamn queers!” upon the band’s entrance

In dive bars and halls where the group would perform

Reception from patrons was sometimes lukewarm

But the Burrito Brothers inspired many in their wake

Including Don Henley, who proceeded to take

The sound of the band, whose shows he’d attend

And water it down in order to ascend

To the top of the charts with The Eagles, his band

Who sounded similar, just a tad more bland

And this marked the time that Gram was fired

By the same musicians he himself hired

Kicked from his band for being too blasted

To sing the right words, crooning tunes that contrasted

To the actual songs his mates played at their shows

Thus ended his stint in the Flying Burrito Bros

So Gram fled to France for an opiate binge

In a mansion with the Stones and many a syringe

But thrown out soon after for partying too hard,

He made his way down to Sunset Boulevard

And there he quit drugs but drank more to find peace

And in the process became morbidly obese

But an aspiring young singer he soon did hear

One night in a bar as he drowned in his beer

Emmylou Harris was the wide-eyed girl’s name

And Gram befriended her and soon they became

A partnership of sorts, singing as a pair

Heart-wrenching harmonies to counteract their despair

The two sounded good, so they made a new record

And although Gram’s past was substantially checkered

Em fell in love and had planned to confess

But the fact of the matter was Gram loved her less

Or at least so it seemed, for Gram had been wed

To a woman named Gretchen, and the marriage had led

To the birth of a child, a bright little girl

With a smile so guileless and with locks that would curl

Way down to her shoulders, so callow and pure

But as for his wife, well, Gram’s feelings for her

Were fated to dwindle then as a result

Of incidents utterly none of her fault

For in the short span of one single year

Two past bandmates whom Gram had held dear

Would perish in separate but equally bleak

Car accidents, leaving him at a loss to speak

So Gram then grew distant in ceaseless unrest

And soon after that, all he’d ever possessed

Was lost in a fire, along with his house

And gone furthermore was his love for his spouse

Aged twenty-six with not much to show

But a string of failed albums, he felt as if though

No matter his efforts, the outcomes the same

And now left with nothing, our hero became

Especially saddened, oh so insecure

Discouraged and lonely with a future unsure

And so as folks do when they’re feeling depressed

He went on a road trip to give his mind rest

Gram drove to the Mojave with a couple of women,

Two of his good friends and enough booze to swim in

And there in the Joshua Tree Inn he stayed

Downing tequila, all the while getting laid

And searching the heavens for any UFOs

In-between ingestions of coke up his nose

Pills were all taken and weed had been smoked

And there in Gram’s body, the cocktail provoked

A craving for morphine, which Gram went and bought

From a strange and sad woman and he took a whole lot

With a dose that was lethal enough to kill three

Gram Parsons died at Joshua Tree


(As is the case with many a disparaged musician

You’d think in his passing, Gram would gain recognition

But the very next day, reports would subside

For the much more famous Jim Croce had died)


But the story doesn’t quite end there, no, net yet

For before Gram died, he’d decided to let

The two friends with him at Joshua Tree

That when his time came, his wish was to be

Cremated and scattered right there in the desert

And Gram’s two friends deemed it well worth the effort

So, Philip and Mike, the brave men of this pair

Both made it their mission to scatter Gram there

But an issue emerged, for Gram’s stepdad had planned

To bury the singer in a faraway land

But ol’ Phil and Mike, who'd known Gram the best

Were determined to grant their dead friend’s request

To an airport they traveled, where Gram’s body lay

In a casket scheduled to fly out that day

But there just in time in a Cadillac hearse

Arrived Phil and Mike, who had come to converse

With the person in charge of transporting Gram

And dressed as morgue workers, they told him to scram

Contending that plans had been altered last-minute

They opened their hearse and put Gram’s coffin in it

And driving away from the airport they were

When suddenly Mike, who was the chauffeur

Crashed into a wall, for he was quite drunk

In sheriffs’ plain view and the duo’s hearts sunk

But the cops let them go, unsuspecting that they

Were stealing Gram’s corpse and the two made their way

Out to the desert with their friend’s pilfered coffin

And to ease all their nerves, Phil and Mike would drink often

But soon they'd made it, surrounded by sand

In the middle of the night, they parked there as planned

And pulled out the casket to place on the ground

And once they were certain no one else was around

They opened the coffin for one final look

At the face of Gram Parsons before Philip took

An old can of gas that was filled to the brim

Five gallons in all to be poured upon him

So Phil doused his pal with no time left to waste

And lit up a match and threw it in haste

Into the coffin, from which would arise

A big ball of fire to light up the skies

And way over yonder, police viewed the flame

And believing that some sort of bomb was to blame

They sped toward the fire, their headlights all shining

And when they heard sounds of the cops’ sirens whining

Gram’s buds piled in their hearse and then hurried

Away from the scene before all of the worried

Policemen arrived at the site of the fire

And seeing the body ablaze they’d inquire

Into the burning to somehow conclude

That Gram Parsons’ carcass had been barbecued

As part of a satanic, ritual act

And headlines were made, presumed then as fact

But seeing the stories all over the news

Philip and Mike would eventually choose

To turn themselves in and were then sent to court

But there the men’s case was astoundingly short

For as fate would have it, no law had been penned

That forbade folks from stealing the corpse of their friend


Thus ends the story of an artist sublime

Aside from his proneness to do drugs all the time

And out in the desert where Gram’s tale is still told

Many live longer, but none quite as bold

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