song for you and you and you... not just for you
"Jesus built a ship to sing a song to." At least that's the way Gram Parsons sees life. It's one of those curious lines from a song that just stick out to me as being so quizzically beautiful that it makes me smile with wonderment every time I hear it.
This week's installment of Song of the Week is filled with those type of lines. The song is A Song For You from Gram Parsons' first solo album, GP, released in January of 1973. In my humble opinion, the song is the standout on the more than solid album.
Gram Parsons, like all good musicians who died far too young, has become a bit of a legend. The stories of his multi-million dollar upbringing, his exploits, his death at the tender age of 26 and his bizarre burial have been overstated too many times and I won't bother to repeat them here. If you want to read about that, just go to our friend, señor wiki. What's important here is that Parsons had a major influence on the evolution of music. You need not look any farther than Wilco, Calexico, Whiskeytown or the Jayhawks to see his direct influence. Long story short, Gram Parsons is often credited with creating "country rock" through his groundbreaking work in the International Submarine Band, his stint in The Byrds, his formation of the band The Flying Burrito Brothers with fellow Byrds Alumnus, Chris Hillman, and, of course, Parsons' two solo albums. In fact, he probably gets too much credit, but I digress.
Let's get back to our Song of the Week, A Song for You. The song is simple as could be. This does not succeed because of the stellar musicianship -- which includes James Burton of Elvis Presley fame, Emmylou Harris and Barry Tashian of the Remains fame -- but because of the sincerity of Gram Parsons himself. Parsons was gifted with a sweet voice and the ability to paint a different color on your front door with his lyrics. I always get a sense that his songs are deeply personal but shared with a larger audience as a tool to articulate what he can't say to the real intended recipient: "I loved you everyday, and now I'm leaving. And I can see the sorrow in your eyes. I hope you know a lot more than you are believing, just so the Sun don't hurt you when you cry."
I'm going to cut it off here, and just ask you to stop and really listen to all the lyrics in this song. Pay particular note to how and when Emmylou Harris harmonizes with Parsons, bringing importance to some lines more than others, and how Parsons' voice wavers under the strain of his words.
Posted 23rd February 2009 by Morgan Young