Thursday, 16 December 2010

A Song For You

Joe writes: Two of my favourite tracks are called A Song For You and it turns out there's a link between the two.

First, Gram Parsons again. For me, his four classic compositions are Hot Burrito #1 (AKA I'm Your Toy - see below), Hickory Wind, Return Of The Grievous Angel and A Song For You. Then there's Wild Horses which is credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards but Gram is rumoured to have co-written. There was more than one controversy over credits in Gram's short career as this article about Hickory Wind suggests.

The essential Gram Parsons purchases are the Flying Burrito Brothers album Gilded Palace Of Sin, the two Gram Parsons solo albums (on which Emmylou Harris deserved a credit), and the Byrds album Sweetheart Of The Rodeo.

Robert Sandall's interview with Emmylou Harris says "The last time they spoke, Parsons phoned (Emmylou) to tell her that her favourite track from their recent sessions had been left off the Grievous Angel album but would definitely feature on the next". What was that song, I wonder? Presumably it's one of the Emmylou duets on the posthumous Sleepless Nights album.

The other A Song For You was immortalised by Donny Hathaway, an artist who, like Gram Parsons, died too young. But it was written by Leon Russell who has also recorded Wild Horses, so there's your link with Gram. Leon also wrote Superstar, one of my two favourite Carpenters tracks (the other being Goodbye To Love) - what a songwriter.

There's a remarkable film about The Carpenters, made by Todd Haynes of Dylan biopic fame while he was still at film school. It's banned following legal action by Richard Carpenter, but thanks to YouTube it's easy to find it.

Donny Hathaway has legendary status in some quarters but is barely known in others. That's starting to change thanks to lyrical name checks from Wyclef Jean and most notably Amy Winehouse. I was recently discussing him with James McMorrow, a new artist from Dublin whose voice is pure magic. Donny's A Song For You is one of James's favourite tracks of all time too, and I'm sure he loves Gram Parsons as well. James told me that it was the greater success of Stevie Wonder that drove Donny to suicide. I don't know whether this is true, but if so, at least he didn't live to hear Ebony & Ivory.

Gram Parsons - A Song For You (iTunes)

Donny Hathaway - A Song For You (iTunes)

(update of post originally from 06/06/08)

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