Who is Townes Van Zandt?

Townes Van Zandt is an American singer-songwriter. He was born on March 7, 1944 in Texas and died on January 1, 1997 in Tennessee. He is appreciated by fans and critics to this day for the high authenticity, originality and literary quality of his songs, which are considered particularly sad.

Townes Van Zandt recorded a dozen studio albums between 1968 and 1994, there were also about 20 live albums and numerous compilations of his sixty or so songs.

His most famous songs are Pancho & Lefty (in the hit version by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard) and If I Needed You. His most famous record is the album (vinyl/CD) Live At The Old Quarter.

Here’s an annotated Townes Van Zandt discography for those who want to quickly get an idea of which album is worth buying in the jumble of releases.

Books, movies and songs about Townes Van Zandt

Steve Earle said the legendary sentence “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” Townes Van Zandt influenced countless performers, as evidenced by numerous tribute albums of cover versions of his songs, several thousand cover versions of his songs, and more than 100 songs about him.

Three biographies have been written about Townes Van Zandt (Brian T. Atkison, Robert Earl Hardy, John Kruth) and many other books pay detailed tribute to him (Harold Eggers, Tamara Saviano, Mickey White, Martin Wimmer).

There are four essential films about him (Heartworn Highways, Be Here To Love Me, Blaze, Without Getting Killed Or Caught).

Influences and related links

Townes Van Zandt‘s biggest influences include the Texas blues of Lightnin Hopkins, traditional folk and country music in the style of Hank Williams (who also died on a New Year’s Day), and the poetry of Bob Dylan and the Beat Generation.

Townes Van Zandt was part of a larger network of friends and companions, mainly Texas songwriters, who strongly influenced each other. These include: Guy Clark, Susanna Clark, Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Jeff Walker, Steve Earle, Richard Dobson, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Terry Allen, Kimmie Rhodes, David Olney, James McMurtry, Vince Bell, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Eric Taylor, David Rodriguez, Blaze Foley, Steve Fromholtz, Robert Earl Keen, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Billy Joe Shaver, Lucinda Williams, John Prine and many more.

Besides the Wikipedia entry, the most important link is the Townes Van Zandt Blue Sky Page. Here one can find numerous links to informative websites, including a comprehensive overview of cover versions. On Facebook, the Townes Van Zandt Facebook Tribute Page regularly posts informative news.