These Townes Van Zandt Songs Prove No Other Songwriter Brings Out Emotions Like He Did

Townes Van Zandt never released an album on a major label and sold very few during his lifetime. He totally escaped mainstream commercial success and was never very concerned about his career. Yet Townes Van Zandt’s songs have influenced a wide variety of more famous singers than he ever would be.

The characters in his compositions who are typically prostitutes, gamblers, bums and other losers who are either fighting to get by or looking for ways to make ends meet, have been recorded by notable musicians ranging from ‘Emmylou Harris to Merle Haggard to Norah Jones. .

And today we choose the best from its catalog, which is an almost impossible task. Nonetheless, it’s the best way to celebrate this surprisingly unique and creative genius songwriter. So keep scrolling below!

1. Pancho and left-handed

Is there a more obvious choice than “Pancho and Lefty” for our first place? It’s one of the best of its kind, telling the story of a Mexican bandit named Pancho and his accomplice Lefty, who ends up betraying him. The song became controversial because most of its details reflected the life of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, who died at the hands of unknown assassins in 1923 – although Townes Van Zandt denied writing the song with Villa in mind.

“Pancho and Lefty” rose to fame when Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard recorded it in 1983.

2. Buckskin Stallion Blues

Despite Van Zandt’s declining health in the mid-1990s, he never lost touch with the music – and he showed it on “Buckskin Stallion Blues” by crushing the song with a few thoughtfully arranged words and a sense of humor.

3. To live is to fly

This is perhaps the best example of Van Zandt’s kind of effortless gift for songwriting. It’s a beautifully bridgeless song that floats with seemingly perfect grace and ease. This is mixed with a delightful philosophical and spiritual clarity.

4. For the love of the song

The painfully beautiful song was recorded as the title track of Van Zandt’s debut album. “For The Sake of The Song” holds great historical significance in his career as he showed his full potential as a legendary songwriter.

5. If I needed you

Van Zandt once introduced “If I Needed You” as a song that came to him in a dream while living in Tennessee with Guy and Susanna Clark. He dreamed he was a folk singer, and that’s the song he played. The moment he woke up, he immediately wrote the song and went back to sleep.

It was later covered by country music artists Emmylou Harris and Don Williams as a duo.

6. Waiting for death

In the song “Waiting Around to Die”, Van Zandt is a lost soul bouncing through life in search of a diversion from awareness of his own humanity – and that turned out to be gambling and booze, then drug addiction. Something he had struggled with throughout his adult life.

7. Married

It is perhaps one of the most agonizing and traumatic yet touching songs ever written. The song recounts the horrific fate of a homeless couple when their unborn child died while they were living under a bridge. It was actually inspired by the character of Meryl Streep in the 1987 drama film Ironweed which is a brutal look at street people in the late 1930s.

8. Snow on Raton

Although Van Zandt doesn’t record as often as he did in the 80s and 90s, he never stopped creating amazing songs. This includes “Snowin’ on Raton”, which was the opening track from his 1987 album. The song finds Van Zandt wandering to nowhere in particular after leaving his loved ones.

9. nothing but the rain

With just his acoustic guitar and an echo of panpipes in the background, “None But The Rain” makes the perfect farewell tour for his 1969 self-titled album. The song is filled with broken hearts and tragic endings as he finds himself accepting the end of his relationship.

ten. The catfish song

After a nine-year hiatus, Van Zandt returned with noticeable ravages of time to his vocals, but that only deepened the way he tells the story of love and loss in this song.

11. No place to fall

It’s one of the songs Van Zandt used to play live for five years before deciding to release a studio version, which leaned more into the waltz feel, a full drum beat and backing vocals. brilliants creating an ironic contrast with the dark uncertainty of the lyrics.

12. Tecumseh Valley

While it first appeared on his debut album, Van Zandt re-recorded the song for his second album a year later to correct things he felt were wrong. He breathed new life into his lyrics by adding important passages about the heroine’s father that better justify his choices.

13. You are not needed now

The song showed Van Zandt’s talent for enduring melodies that adds affection and enthusiasm to even his most mysterious lyrics. The inspiring piano helps convey this message.

14. Why does she act like this

Perhaps one of Van Zandt’s few romantic songs, “Why She’s Acting This Way” finds him spending about five delightful minutes describing all the puzzling things his wife does.

15. I will be there in the morning

In 1969, Van Zandt re-recorded several songs from her debut album, including “I’ll Be Here In The Morning” – a tender promise to a woman waiting at home for her wandering man.

More Townes Van Zandt Songs That Prove He’s One Of A Kind

Indeed, Townes Van Zandt has established himself as one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Check out some of his other songs below.

  • Be here to love me
  • (Quicksilver’s Musings of) Maria
  • No lonely melody
  • Farewell, Miss Carousel
  • Rake
  • song of the tower
  • Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold
  • Flying shoes
  • Rex’s blues
  • only him or me

So which of these Townes Van Zandt songs do you like the most?

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