The singer-songwriter, and Texas native, would have turned 71 on March 7, so we compiled a list of our favorite lesser-known covers.
Whether you know it or not, you have likely heard a Townes Van Zandt song or two. His melodies and lyrics are honest, hauntingly beautiful, and almost magical. Many consider Van Zandt the best songwriter of our time.
In his 30-year recording career, he never released an album on a major label. He wasn’t interested in building a career or being a player in the music business. He told writer Don McLeese in an interview, “I was just tapped on the shoulder from above and told to write these songs, as opposed to wanting to be a success in the music business.”
Van Zandt died of a heart attack on New Year’s Day 1997 at the age of 52. He had suffered from health problems stemming from years of alcohol and drug abuse.
In 1998, the television show Austin City Limits aired “A Celebration of Townes Van Zandt.” Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Guy Clark, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Steve Earle, and others came together to play his songs and reminisce about the friend they had lost. Nelson and Harris played “Pancho and Lefty,” Harris and Earle sang “If I Needed You,” Griffith sang “Tecumseh Valley,” and Lovett performed “Flyin’ Shoes.”
You probably know some of the more popular hits, like the Nelson/Haggard cover of “Pancho & Lefty,” so here’s a list of some of the great covers you might not have heard.
5. Norah Jones, “Be Here To Love Me”
4. James McMurtry, “Rex’s Blues”
3. Steve Earle, “To Live Is To Fly”
2. The Holmes Brothers, “If I Needed You”
The Holmes Brothers released this song on their 2004 album, Simple Truths. The blues trio stripped off the country twang and infused it with their unique blend of gospel, soul and R&B
1. Emmylou Harris, “Pancho & Lefty”
Rodney Crowell and Albert Lee provide backing vocals and guitars.