Gram Parsons Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel

Gram Parsons Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel
While many troubled young poets have been embraced after tragically being struck down in the prime of youth, Gram Parsons is someone who outdid nearly all of them. Completely misunderstood during his brief lifetime, his music has gone on to be among the most influential forces in both country and rock since his death in 1973. But it is also that death that has helped the legend endure; it was a truly poetic exit involving an overdose, followed by his corpse being partially cremated in his beloved Joshua Tree National Park against the wishes of his evil step-father. Parsons’ full story has begged to be told visually for years and this BBC doc, partially written by devotee Sid Griffin of the Long Ryders, does an admirable job given the meagre source material. The gaps are filled by a host of commentators: Parsons’ family and lovers, ex-bandmates from the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers, close friends Keith Richards and Emmylou Harris, and road manager Phil Kaufman, who re-enacts in detail how he carried out Gram’s final wish. To finally get such a well-rounded portrait of Parsons should be surprising to even hardcore fans. Despite suffering through his father’s suicide and mother’s alcoholism as a child, he still comes off as a spoiled Southern Dandy whose ambition to be a rock star was facilitated through his family’s immense wealth. After establishing himself in L.A., that sense of privilege eventually burned many bridges, leaving him a hopeless addict lucky enough to be supported by a small cadre of admirers. Still, Parsons hung on to his talent long enough to make his final solo recordings his deepest statements, thanks in large part to having Emmylou on hand. Although Fallen Angel could have easily taken a sensational, tabloid-style approach, director Hennig and Griffin show full respect for both Gram’s life and music. Which one will be remembered longer may be a matter for debate but this documentary at least allows them to be judged equally. (Rhino/Warner)