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Music Never Sleeps, Pal

The soul is here for its own joy.
Feb 29 '12

1969 DESERT TRIPPIN’ | GRAM PARSONS, ANITA PALLENBERG & KEITH RICHARDS

Anita Pallenberg, Keith Richards and Gram Parsons at Joshua Tree © MICHAEL COOPER

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Gram Parsons and Keith Richards first met back in 1968.  Gram was with the Byrds; touring Europe to promote their landmark Sweetheart of the Rodeo record.  When Gram told Keith the band was headed to South Africa, Keith was like– “Man, we don’t go there.” The sanctions and the embargo were on. So Gram quit the Byrds, right there and then. Gram, with nowhere to stay, crashed with Keith in London and fed his friend a steady diet of classic Country music– which would seep its way into the Stones’ sound soon enough.

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As a songwriter, Gram worked very much like I do, which is knock out a couple of chords, start to spiel and see how far it can go. Rather than sitting around with a piece of paper and a pen, trying to make things fit neatly together, if you just get on the microphone, things come to you. Lines come to you that you wouldn’t dream of, because they have to come to you in a split second. Gram liked to do that. But he would also work very hard — harder than I ever did — on honing it down.  It’s difficult for me to pick one of his songs as a favorite. ‘Sin City’, on the Flying Burrito Brothers’ first album, is great. I love ‘I Can’t Dance’, on GP. But you’ll never get a full portrait of him from one or two songs.

–Keith Richards


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Keith Richards at Joshua Tree © MICHAEL COOPER

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In 1969, Keith Richards, Gram Parsons, and Anita Pallenberg took a trip (quite literally, I’m sure) to the Joshua Tree  National Park.  (The amazing photos of that epic trip were taken by Michael Cooper.) Joshua Tree was a place Gram Parsons was quite fond of.  He’d spend days there on LSD getting lost, chasing UFOs, whatever. Tragically it was there that it all ended for Gram.

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The drugs and drinking — he was no better or worse than the rest of us. He just made that one fatal mistake — taking that one hit after he cleaned up, still thinking he could take the same amount. And it was too f*cking much. But he didn’t get into dope because of us. He knew his stuff before he met us.  I think he was just getting into his stride when he died (In ‘73 Gram Parsons fatally overdosed from a lethal combo of morphine and alcohol). His actual output — the number of records he made and sold — was pretty minimal. But his effect on country music is enormous. This is why we’re talking about him now. But we can’t know what his full impact could have been.

–Keith Richards


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Anita Pallenberg at Joshua Tree © MICHAEL COOPER

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Gram Parsons at Joshua Tree © MICHAEL COOPER

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Keith Richards and Gram Parsons at Joshua Tree © MICHAEL COOPER

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Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg at Joshua Tree © MICHAEL COOPER

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Keith Richards at Joshua Tree © MICHAEL COOPER

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Keith Richards at Joshua Tree © MICHAEL COOPER

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Anita Pallenberg, Keith Richards and Gram Parsons at Joshua Tree © MICHAEL COOPER

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Keith Richards at Joshua Tree © MICHAEL COOPER

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Anita Pallenberg, Keith Richards and Gram Parsons at Joshua Tree © MICHAEL COOPER

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