here‘s the skinny: by l973 Parsons had entered the musical hall of fame as a member of both the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers and had hung out with lilvis and tripped with the Rolling Stones. That same year. on 1‘) September. he was found dead in a motel room after a fatal overdose of a morphine and tequila combo. When Parsons' road manager and friend Phil Kaufman found out the singer was dead. he stole the body. drove out to the Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert. California and cremated the remains. According to Kaufman. he was keeping a promise. acting on a pact made between himself and Parsons. which involved the friends agreeing that whichever of them died first. the other would burn the body in the desert. releasing the spirit into their favourite place on liarth.
That story has become music folklore. To the right people — fans. musos — it provokes an almost religious awe. And why not'.’ The slory"s got the Biblical lot: a spiritual leader in singer-songwriter Parsons and a dedicated disciple in Kaufman: a religious icon and locale associated with the singer's death in the Joshua Tree and the desert (think God’s Country). suggest it. a Holy Trinity in Parsons. his ex-wife Barbara and father Stanley (both of whom. in the film. are also in hot pursuit of the body — in reality Parsons‘ father Cecil committed suicide in l958). (hum! TIM/l Parsons presents a new version of the events. adding another layer to the myth that began back in l‘)73 with newspaper reports and magazine articles. and has since been propagated by books. television programmes. other musicians (L'Z‘s The Joshua Tree album. for example) and the oral storytelling tradition
Gabriel Macht (right) as Gram Parsons
It even has. dare I
’" , nif-
(today known as gossip).
It is. of course. as common as a C chord for musicians to be granted divine status. Think of the term 'rock god’. Jim Morrison was one. and with long ﬂowing dark hair. a beard and those angelic eyes. he doesn‘t look unlike Jesus. Ditto Nirvana frontman Kurt Kobain. lilvis Presley (the King of kings) came back from the dead. at least he did if you go along with the legions of fan-worshippers who hold that ‘lilvis lives!’ By way of appreciating just how enduring the connection between rock god and the sort of God is. consider that a relatively recent cover of The Face magazine (January 2003) featured a photo of the Vines‘ frontman Craig Nicholls (whose grown-up mop top is reminiscent of Gram Parsons‘ barnet. funnin enough). bare- chested with an image of Christ spray—painted onto his body. ‘Jesus!’ ran the cover line. ‘Craig Nicholls does the rock
star martyr thing.‘ liach Generation of musicians
generates a new Christ figure.
Parsons himself was widely associated and identified himself with things divine. ()ne of his biographers. Jason Walker. titled his book (iram PUIZS‘UIIS.‘ (iml's ()n'n Singer. That‘s a line suggested. in part. by Parsons. whose last concert tour was with his band. the liallen Angels. and who named his second and celebrated solo album (ireviuus Angel.
The melancholy-titled record was released four months after Parsons‘ death. You could say that‘s a resurrection. of sorts.
Grand Theft Parsons is on general release from Fri 19 Mar. The Passion of the Christ is on general release from Fri 26 Mar.
l A I O . . O Q A
ransom ; PROFILE
; Gram Parsons
AKA Cecil Ingram Connor (re born as) Born Winter Haven, Florida. USA 5 Father Also two: Cecil ‘Coon Dog'
Connor Jr (deceased) and Robert
Ellis Parsons (adoptive) Mother Avis Snively Connor
Died in a motel room. Joshua Tree f National Park, California
Cause of death Tequila and morphine cocktail overdose
l; Age 26 ? RIP? Nope. cremated by friend
Phil Kaufman; partially burned remains interned in a cemetery in New Orleans, Louisiana
Life after death released Grievous Angel, posthumously Legacy Created ‘country rock' What not to say ‘He went out in
a blaze of glory'
18 Mar—1 Apr 2004 THE LIST 21