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Wherever You May Be Wandering

Today is the birthday of the late, great, Townes Van Zandt. Although the man never gained the omnipresent popularity of artists such as Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan, he insinuated himself in his own way. Although many do not know him by name, they know his writing through the covers of artists such as Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, and Lyle Lovett. Townes enjoyed a cult following in his lifetime, even as he struggled to keep his own recordings in print.

Townes’ power however, is something entirely different from a catchy tune from a few notes strung together. His power is even greater than a clever line. The power of Townes Van Zandt resides in the feeling evoked from his poetry. It arises from the emotions that his melodies never fail to invoke. Listening to the music of Townes Van Zandt may not be an enjoyable experience (he famously described his songs as being hopeless, not depressing) but rather a transcendental one. Somehow, in the process of learning how to play the blues he instead hit upon a much more primal and transformative emotion.

Growing up, I have always had a penchant for the older music favoring it above the popular music of the day almost exclusively. In listening to Pink Floyd and The Who I learned that music can be something more than a tune to be hummed, it can be a deeply personal and cathartic experience. In listening to The Wall and Quadrophenia, I learned how music can save a life. In listening to Townes Van Zandt, I learned how music can change a soul.

On this, his birthday, I would like to offer up my thanks for what he has done. His life and his music are something that will be cherished for many, many years. Though he may never reach the status of superstar that so many artists strive for, he will always enjoy a more personal and intimate relationship with his listeners than any of the wildly popular artists have. I don’t think that he would have liked the distance that such fame would inevitably bring.

Thank you, Townes Van Zandt and I hope you’re finding everything you want wherever you may be wandering now.


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