There is a scene in Be Here to Love Me where Townes Van Zandt is sitting around playing the first song he ever wrote. Its called “Waitin around to die.” The camera pans out and focuses on a older black man in the background who is gently crying. You could see the years in the mans face, and the pain he had dealt with. It was as if Townes wrote the song for him. It was at that moment that I realized how powerful that song was.
I’ve been playing a few Townes songs over the last couple years. Specifically, “Pancho and Lefty.” Its a song I was taught around the campfire in Alaska and its a song that will always remain special to me. At that time I only knew that Van Zandt was an important songwriter, I didn't then completely understand his legacy.
After watching this film, I am deeply and emotionally effected by Townes; not only his music, but who he was as a person and what he had to deal with. According to the film he dealt with mental illness, serious family issues, and an affliction with drugs, alcohol, and songwriting.
He was someone from a long list of artists who I believe wasnt made for this world. Over the last few days, I have been singing his sings and each time I sing them, I feel like I understand them a little bit more. His way with words is simple yet gently affecting.
He does not have a perfect voice, nor should he. But his songwriting power is immense. Many of his songs have been covered by other artists, but here are a few originals to listen to:
Colorado Girl. You should also check out the documentary about him, even if you aren't already a fan.