Townes Van Zandt

Born to a wealthy family in 1940s Texas, Townes Van Zandt's extremely high IQ classified him as genius but he suffered from manic depression and was given experimental insulin shock therapy to cure him. It wiped out his long-term memory and Townes was never the same again. Leaving behind a career in law and a white picket fence, he became a restless soul constantly in search of something to fill the big hole. Too lonesome and wild for an increasingly corporate Nashville, his songs made him a cult hero, "a songwriter's songwriter", revered by his peers Guy Clark, Steve Earle and John Prine. Emmylou Harris scored a hit in 1981 with his song If I Needed You and Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard topped the country charts in 1983 with a cover of his classic Pancho And Lefty; but serious fame eluded him and he suffered with drug and alcohol addiction. Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley attempted to record an album with Townes in 1996, but during the sessions he fell down some stairs and broke his back. He died a few days later of heart failure. Bob Dylan, Devendra Banhart and Neil Young are among his fans and his legacy lives on through the beauty and sadness of his songs Waitin' Around To Die, Kathleen, Colorado Girl and the devastating Marie. In recent years his cover of the Rolling Stones' Dead Flowers was used in the film The Big Lebowski and his protégé Steve Earle recorded the tribute album Townes (2009) and famously declared "Townes is the best songwriter in the whole world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table and tell him that."

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