cover image Grievous Angel: An Intimate Biography of Gram Parsons

Grievous Angel: An Intimate Biography of Gram Parsons

Jessica Hundley, with Polly Parsons. . Thunder's Mouth, $16.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-1-56025-673-1

The psychedelic '60s had more than its share of excess, and nowhere was this truer than in the Los Angeles music scene. Parsons, one of the originators of country rock, was all too typical, rising to stardom and dead of a morphine overdose at age 26. In this fluffy, interview-packed biography, music journalist Hundley and Parsons's daughter, Polly, who was seven when Parsons died in 1973, chronicle his life, from his privileged but troubled Southern childhood to his cremation in the California desert. Born into a wealthy Florida family, Parsons was encouraged by his mother and stepfather to nurture his musical ambitions. Dropping out of Harvard, Parsons landed in L.A. in 1966 and charmed the hippie-resistant country crowd; joined the seminal band the Byrds; fathered a child (Polly); formed the Flying Burrito Brothers; befriended Keith Richards; and discovered Emmylou Harris, periodically returning to Florida to pick up his trust fund installments. Although the authors take considerable artistic license describing Parsons's thoughts, they fail to provide more than a superficial portrait. Heavy on atmosphere but frustratingly light on insight, this biography portrays an ambitious, charming, spoiled and self-destructive artist who might be better remembered through his music. Photos. Agent, Alex Smithline. (Nov.)