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Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel


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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This definitive biography chronicles a Southern Gothic saga and is a fascinating look at "the Grievous Angel" and the heartbreakingly beautiful music he created. Dispelling myths that have grown to surround Gram, Fallen Angel shows us the essence of his artistry; it is a truly revealing account of his life and ongoing influence. Fallen Angel features music from Gram Parsons’ groundbreaking career with The International Submarine Band, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, as well as his highly acclaimed solo albums. Featured interviews include Peter Buck, James Burton, Emmylou Harris, Chris Hillman, Phil Kaufman, Bernie Leadon, Avis Bartkus Parsons III, Gretchen Parsons Carpenter, Diane Parsons, Polly Parsons, Keith Richards, Dwight Yoakam, and more.

Amazon.com

Cynics have suggested that death is a shrewd career move for some artists, and when it comes to singer-songwriter Gram Parsons, whose life, work, and demise are chronicled in Fallen Angel, they may be right. Although undeniably talented, Parsons never had a hit and made just six albums, and only one of them (the Flying Burrito Brothers' The Gilded Palace of Sin) is a bona fide classic. That's one reviewer's opinion, anyway. Yet three decades after he died (in 1975, at age 26), Parsons is revered as a country rock pioneer, a significant influence on Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones, and a colossal talent who never got his due. While that may all be true, what's beyond dispute (and it's confirmed by the great majority of those interviewed in director Gandulf Henning's documentary) is that Parsons was a screw-up, a drunk and drug abuser who squandered his opportunities and dug himself an early grave, even by rock star standards. It wasn't all his fault. Any kid with a family background like his (his father committed suicide and his mother died from the ravages of alcoholism… possibly with the assistance of her second husband, Parsons' stepfather, who was a big drinker himself) is bound to have, shall we say, issues; Parsons was also well off financially, a fact that many interviewees (most notably Chris Hillman, who played with him in the Byrds and the Burritos) suggest might have attributed to his lack of driving ambition. Richards, duet partner Emmylou Harris, and other former bandmates are on hand to tell the tale, along with his widow, various surviving relatives, and close friends and associates. There's lots of Parsons' music on the soundtrack, as well as excerpts from a couple of Burritos promo films and some interesting footage of him singing with Harris. In the end, the film's most haunting moments concern the events that followed Parsons' death, when road manager Phil Kaufman commandeered (stole, actually) his casket and drove it to California's Joshua Tree National Monument, where he set it on fire, apparently according to the singer's wishes. Now that is the stuff of legend. --Sam Graham

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Peter Buck, Gretchen Parsons Carpenter, Elvis Costello, Pamela Des Barres, Emmylou Harris
  • Directors: Gandulf Hennig
  • Writers: Gandulf Hennig, Sid Griffin
  • Producers: Gandulf Hennig, Alfred Holighaus, Mark Cooper, Mark Hagen
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0), English (Dolby Digital 2.0), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, English, Italian
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Rhino
  • DVD Release Date: June 20, 2006
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000A0GY32
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,277 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

158 of 164 people found the following review helpful By twangmon on May 17, 2006
Format: DVD
The early '70s saw an epidemic of deaths among pioneering rock musicians brought on by fast living and substance abuse. Jimi Hendrix (1970), Janis Joplin (1970), Jim Morrison (1971), and the Grateful Dead's Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (1973) were among those who were overwhelmed by the intensity of their lifestyles and died in their 20s. Lesser known, but ultimately as pioneering, was Gram Parsons, the singer, writer, and guitarist who merged the twang of post-war honky tonk with the culture and attitude of late-'60s rock. Directed by Gandulf Hennig, Fallen Angel is a fascinating, inspired, and heart-wrenching documentary about Parsons' life, music, and death in 1973, at the age of 26. The film is also a tale of family tragedy, and paints a dramatic picture of the music culture of the day.

Using interview clips with his family members, wife and lovers, daughter, friends and associates, and a host of musicians -- including Chris Hillman, Peter Buck, Keith Richards, Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam, James Burton, Bernie Leadon, and Emmylou Harris -- Hennig takes us through the Parsons' childhood, musical adventures, and tragic end. We learn of Parsons' first bands, the Pacers and the Legends, and how his earliest gigs occurred in a club bought for him by his wealthy family when he was 16. We see how his father's suicide, his mother's alcoholism, and other aspects of his dysfunctional family affected his outlook and direction. Fallen Angel reveals how Parsons attended Harvard for one term -- just long enough for a classmate to introduce him to Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and the nasal sound of Bakersfield honky tonk -- before flunking out. We follow Parsons to the Bronx, where he founded the International Submarine Band with John Nuese, who describes life with Parsons in the mid '60s.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By matthewslaughter on June 23, 2006
Format: DVD
This should come as a complete godsend to Gram Parsons fans everywhere. Not only does it have some pretty excellent archival footage (Top of the Pops style "videos" of "Hot Burrito #1" and "Christine's Tune"), it features insightful interviews with family members and musical associates, most notably Chris Hillman, Emmylou Harris and Keith Richards. The film is fairly well-balanced; it's clear that Parsons could be aloof, stuck up and misguided, and the documentary does not try to sugarcoat his personality. Like one earlier reviewer stated, the most puzzling/saddening part of his life might be the "black hole" year or so he spent with Keith Richards in France. It seems that he put a lot of himself into "Exile on Main Street," though he got none of the credit. It also seems that his drug use escalated and probably sucked away some great music that should have ended up on HIS records. The most fascinating part of the film is the family intrigue. Parsons' life was riddled with Southern aristocratic tragedy, as if Edgar Allan Poe was writing a modernized version of "The Fall of the House of Usher." Parsons' adopted father is painted as a villain here, as is Parsons' "road manager/mangler" Phil Kaufman, who burned his corpse at the Joshua Tree National Monument per Parsons' wishes. As you can tell, the great music and the tragic arch of his life make all the elements of a great picture, and director Gandulf Hennig stitches these details together artfully, but not pretentiously. Recommended for fans and neophytes alike.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on February 11, 2007
Format: DVD
This is a fairly good attempt at a Gram Parsons biography but it leaves a lot of stones unturned (or only partially turned) mainly because the documentary spends more time exploring the ill effects of Gram's sordid family history than with musical history. I think musical fans will tire pretty quickly with all the details of Gram's privileged upbringing, drug use, and chronicly poor judgement when it comes to party companions. That the family had a history of alcohol abuse is important but it doesn't ultimately tell us much about Grams importance as a musical innovator. Occasionally this documentary will shift away from Grams alcohol and drug problems and talk about the music but mostly this film is interested in Gram the user.

Musically this documentary is very shallow. One reason for this is that Gram Parson's wife is still alive and so Emmylou Harris, out of respect for her feelings, is very discreet when discussing her musical and personal relationship with Gram. The Gram/Emmylou collaboration is one of the most intriguing male/female combos on record and we can tell that Emmylou has a lot more she could say about Gram and perhaps one day she'll say it but she doesn't say it here. He had a huge influence on her but she also had a huge influence on him and the nature of this relationship (both the personal and professional side of it) could have been explored much more thoroughly.

Also the collaborations and jam sessions with Keith Richards could have been discussed much more thoroughly. The film makers mention Gram and Keith's friendship and how, through Keith, Gram's influence was felt on the Stones four best albums but this influence, and how small or great it was, is never explored. Do tapes exist of Gram and Keith playing together?
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Topic From this Discussion
question about Gram Parsons' wife Gretchen
John: David Meyer's book, "Twenty Thousand Roads," clearly states that Gretchen was still married to Gram at the time of his death. In fact, the day after his passing, Gretchen filed a motion in court establishing her and Polly's "succession" to Gram's estate. Apparently, Gram... Read More
Feb 15, 2009 by Jimmy James |  See all 2 posts
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