Gram Parsons, the man who made Mick Jagger jealous

The most enduring friendship in rock, even with all the ups and downs it had, is that of Mick Jagger Y Keith Richards, an emblematic bond that was shaken by different emotions, including jealousy. The funny thing is that they were triggered by an unthinkable relationship, the friendship born between the Rolling Stones guitarist and Gram Parsons, talented American country pianist and guitarist. With him, Keith shared – in addition to music – marathon drug sessions and that made Jagger jealous. Parsons, whom Richards called his “soul brother,” died of a morphine overdose on September 19, 1973, at age 26.

The closeness of Parsons with Richards, and the possibility that both were thinking of making an album together, was what would have awakened –according to the guitarist- Jagger’s anger. “Mick didn’t want Gram; It took me a long time to realize something that everyone around me suspected. It made life difficult for him, flirted with his girlfriend Gretchen, and somehow made it clear that he was not welcome, “says Richards, who also recalls that Jagger behaved like a” tarantula “when he was around Gram. While the guitarist believed that Parsons’ presence expanded the club, the singer saw it as a betrayal.

It all started with the arrival of Parsons and his girlfriend at Villa Nellcote, in the south of France, where the historic double album was recorded. Exile On Main St. Richards and Parsons spent their time high and making music and those meetings would have come up topics like Sweet Virginia”, In which Parsons would have done backing vocals, and Torn and Frayed, included in the double disc. This influence had already been evident in the previous album Sticky Fingers, con Wild Horses Y Dead Flowers. Although Richards does not remember, and with good reason, the circumstances of Parsons’ departure from the Nellcote, it would have been Anita Pallenberg (Keith’s partner) who would have fired them after two weeks due to the couple’s repeated uncontrolled situations, in which there were also scenes of violence. Bassist Bill Wyman noted that Parsons was asked to leave to try to “clean up” the village in light of French police threats of break-in.

Face of few friends, at least for Mick Jagger, who together with Keith Richards and Gram Parsons share a table in Nellcote, France.

“Mick was jealous that we were such friends,” Keith continues. It took me a while to realize the emptiness I made for Gram; Any guy I became friends with sooner or later ended up saying ‘I don’t think Mick likes me.’ We were always very close with Jagger, but he has a tendency to get possessive and even more so with friends. I think he wants to protect me, something like ‘What does this jerk Keith want?’ I don’t know if he’ll agree, but he thought I belonged to him; Mick doesn’t like to trust anyone and I trust until you show me that it would be better for me not to; It’s like that, he can’t stop being Mick Jagger for a minute, went out to his mother ”.

A revolutionary musician

Just as folk rock without Bob Dylan would not be what it is, country rock without Gram Parsons would not be either. Pioneer of a style that brings together two great traditions. A revolutionary musician who became a cult figure, beyond his small work with records that had little commercial potential in view of their sales.

Gram Parsons died of an overdose at age 26.

Gram Parsons died of an overdose at age 26.

Ingram Cecil Connor III was born in Winter Haven, Florida, in November 1946, into a wealthy home, but dysfunctional due to his parents’ alcoholism. While his father, a medal for valor for his performance as an aviator at Pearl Harbor in 1941, committed suicide in 1958, his mother died of cirrhosis in 1965. Now, music has been around since his childhood and evidently served as a catalyst. in its existence.

At the age of nine, in February 1956, in Waycross, he attended an Elvis Presley concert and his life changed; with fourteen he formed the rock and roll group The Pacers and then The Legends and wandered at the age of 18 in Greenwich Village, New York; a couple of years later, in 1966, he entered Harvard University where he only took one semester; meanwhile he had formed his first group in Boston, The International Submarine Band. They moved to New York and then continued on to Los Angeles, where the band recorded their first album. Safe At Home (1968), a true cult album in the country world, although at the time of its release the group was already separated.

Parsons was hinted at as a talented songwriter, but he was nothing short of promising until he joined the legendary group The Byrds, replacing none other than David Crosby. It was 1968 and as the weeks passed, his influence became more and more noticeable. The initial project was to make an album with bluegrass, folk, jazz and rock, something that was discarded by Parsons, which not only imposed country but forced them to move to Nashville to record what would be that excellent album. Sweethearts of Rodeo, on 1968 (although the album ended up being recorded at Columbia Studios, Los Angeles). Issues with his record label, which threatened him with legal action, forced Parsons to appear as lead vocals on three of the six songs he originally recorded. This disc, the sixth of the band, is considered like the first work of country rock and according to the own Richards, the group happened -thanks to Parsons- from being a pop band to a country one, “Sweethearts Of Rodeo It ended up being the incubator of country-rock, ”he added.

Keith Richards and Gram Parsons, on an excursion to Stonehenge.

Keith Richards and Gram Parsons, on an excursion to Stonehenge.

Precisely, on the group’s tour of England in July 1968, Parsons met Richards. Music certainly brought them together, but they were also two strong addicts who were comfortable with each other; In addition, Richards informs him of the terrible situation that the black community lived in South Africa, the next destination on The Byrds tour, as a result of the sinister Apartheid system. “How in Mississippi?” Parsons told the guitarist. Parsons raises the situation to the Byrds who nevertheless decide to travel to South Africa. Parsons then leaves the band and stays at Richards’ house for a season where the friendship will be consolidated.

The bond between the two becomes very strong, “it was like meeting a brother I hadn’t seen for many years,” says Richards in his autobiography. Lifetime. The friendship is strengthened by sharing the same passion for music (“of the musicians I know, the two who had an attitude towards music identical to mine were John Lennon and Gram”, argues Keith) and a very special anchor in the drugs, especially heroin. “It was a friendship between musicians, but we were also united by love for the same substance”, añade el Rolling Stone.

Upon his return to Los Angeles in 1969, Parsons, no longer in a band, founded with Chris Hillman (ex The Byrds) the legendary Flying Burrito Brothers, a band that produced a true schism in country by creatively fusing it with rock. “An overwhelming synthesis, which absorbs the rural with the urban and the traditional with the contemporary”, pointed out one of the critics of the group’s first album Gilded Palace Of Sin (1969), which did not have a special reception in the public. Neither does his second album Burrito Deluxe”(1970), which included a version of Wild Horses, he was afraid the Stones gave in to him even before he came out on Sticky Fingers. A present from Richards to his great friend.

Anita Pallemberg, Keith Richards, Gram Parsos and Gretchen Burrell in living together in France.

Anita Pallemberg, Keith Richards, Gram Parsos and Gretchen Burrell in living together in France.

From all this time there are two singular moments, the inclusion of the Burrito in the ill-fated concert of the Stones in Altamont, where they did two songs Six Days On The Road (appearing in the movie Gimme Shelter) Y Bonnie Moronie (Popotitos); and the opening act for The Byrds, in Philadelphia, where Parsons came up to play with them and the two bands finished on stage.

His solo career began in the late 1970s and was quite uncertain and unproductive, since without the containment of a group his drug use increased and the recording sessions for the first album did not progress as expected. His closeness to Richards every time he traveled to Europe or when the Stones arrived in the United States did not contribute to improving his condition, on the contrary, he seemed to gradually lose his mental stability.. He underwent several rehabilitation treatments, including one with Keith Richards without great results.

Anyway he managed to put out his first album, GP in 1973, accompanied by the Elvis Presley band TCB. Parsons’s condition was going downhill, except for sporadic moments, always related to music, when he was away from drugs.

But suddenly while recording his second album, Grievous Angel (1974), Parsons achieved with TCB an original sound, strong, with a lot of character and with a hit as it was Love Hurts. Parsons was content to the point that he had turned away from heroin and kept his distance from alcohol.

Precisely the death of the musician occurred due to a miscalculation, according to Richards. “If you detoxified like Parsons was,” Keith analyzed, “you have to be careful going back to drugs. When one is clean and goes back to taking the same amount of drugs as last time, the body can no longer support it and gives up ”.

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And it happened as the Rolling Stone tells. At a hotel on the southern edge of the Joshua Tree desert in California, which he considered his true home, Parsons had a morphine overdose that ended his life.

But here the vicissitudes of Parsons would not end; his friend Phil Kaufman, fulfilling the musician’s last wish, stole his body at the Los Angeles airport and transported it to the Joshua Tree desert., where he threw fuel at it and burned it. Kaufman was detained and eventually what was left of Parsons’ body was buried in Louisiana. Today, The Cap Rock Parking Lot, where he was partially cremated, is the destination of a regular procession of fanatics.

On Parsons, Richard stated: “Gram taught me to play country, the differences between styles; Today I can play with any musician of the genre without blushing. I know I had a good teacher ”.

Grievous Angel it came out posthumously and soon reached the status of a country-rock classic; the critics finally accompanied the music of Gram Parsons.

WD