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Townes Van Zandt - Be Here to Love Me

4.6 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

As a musician, Townes Van Zandt was legendary – perhaps one of the greatest who ever lived, inspiring artists from Bob Dylan to Norah Jones to Steve Earle. As a man, a husband, and a father his life was as tragic and as beautiful as the songs he wrote. Townes was an enigma to his family, pinned between a deep longing for home and the nomadic lifestyle that was necessary for his livelihood. Director Margaret Brown’s Be Here To Love Me is an artful, expertly directed portrait of both of these sides of Van Zandt and ultimately serves as an insightful look at the sacrifices, challenges, and consequences faced in pursuit of a dream. Haunting and lyrical, Be Here To Love Me combines emotional interviews with friends and family with never seen footage of Townes Van Zandt.

You might have never heard of Townes Van Zandt. You might not even know his songs. But this Texan's music was profoundly influential on his peers--so much so that some of the folks interviewed for Be Here to Love Me, a documentary about Van Zandt's work and difficult life, call him one of the best songwriters, maybe even the best, in American history. That's a stretch, but there's no doubting the man's talent; his two best-known tunes, "Pancho and Lefty" (popularized by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard) and "If I Needed You" (a beautiful Emmylou Harris-Don Williams duet), by themselves guarantee him a spot in a few Halls of Fame. But the Van Zandt chronicled in director Margaret Brown's 100-minute film was his own worst enemy. Born in 1944, he was a troubled young man who played Russian roulette for kicks, deliberately fell off a fourth-floor balcony, and was placed in a mental home, where shock treatments robbed him of significant parts of his memory and personality. Married three times, he was also wedded to the bottle, which ultimately destroyed him (he died of a heart attack in 1997). Be Here to Love Me details these events through various interviews with Van Zandt himself, as well as Nelson, Harris, Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith, and other notables. But whereas a fellow tippler like singer Guy Clark fondly remembers the good times, Van Zandt's family tells a different story: "Bummer," replies one ex-wife when asked to describe living with him, while his eldest son, JT, betrays a good deal of bitterness about a dad who couldn't control his own life, wasn't much of a family man, and died young and unfulfilled. DVD extras include several Van Zandt performances (in addition to clips throughout the main program), which is a good thing; were it not for his soulful, affecting songs, there wouldn't be a lot to admire about this guy. --Sam Graham

Special Features

  • Commentary by director Margaret Brown, cinematographer Lee Daniel and musician Joe Ely
  • Rare and intimate performances by Townes Van Zandt and others
  • Exclusive in-depth interviews with featured artists
  • Theatrical Trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Joe Ely, Guy Clark, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Donna Spence
  • Directors: Margaret Brown
  • Producers: Amy Shatsky-Gambrill, Chris Mattsson, Ellen Naegeli, Jannat Gargi, K. Lynn Martin
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Palm Pictures / Umvd
  • DVD Release Date: March 14, 2006
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000CNF80W
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,016 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Townes Van Zandt - Be Here to Love Me" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I had the date for this DVD's release on my calendar for months. I had read reviews of its insights, and those combined with all the stories I heard about Townes Van Zandt over the years had me literally counting the days until I could see this documentary. I discovered Townes' music ten years ago, and as someone who plays guitar and writes songs I have always found his music to be some of the most inspiring I have ever heard. For years I have read about his legendary drinking and gambling, so I knew that this would be touched on in the film. However, I was unprepared for the sheer self destructiveness that plagued Townes Van Zandt's life. Even more disturbing to me was the senselessness of it all. I had always wondered what Townes was up to in the years from the late seventies to the late eighties, when his discography suggests that he literally disappeared. This film touches on this but never really answers the question. The film is clear that Townes began a follow up to "The Late Great Townes Van Zandt" which was titled "7 Come 11" (and should have given him the push into superstar status he deserved), and Townes' producer Kevin Eggers acknowledges that he did not release "The Nashville Sessions" until twenty years after it was recorded, but the exact reasons as to why were not made clear. This inexplicable failure to promote Townes Van Zandt's music is something that really bothers me, especially since it seems that he did nothing but begin a downward spiral creatively and personally from that time on. Steve Earle remembered witnessing Townes playing russian roulette on his porch in the late seventies with a .357 Magnum, and expressed his dismay and anger throughout the film at witnessing what was the world's greatest songwriter (and his hero) being so callous about his talent and his life.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
Townes Van Zandt was a manic-depressive, an alcoholic, and a great songwriter. He played a guitar and sang his songs, although the best-known versions of the songs are by others: Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Emmylou Harris to name a few. The songs "Tecumseh Valley, Poncho and Lefty, If I Needed You, and Waiting Around to to Die" are as good as any you'll find. Steve Earle, another Texas singer/songwriter, said TVZ was the greatest songwriter in the world.

This documentary features TVZ singing many of his songs while we witness his deterioration. He died at age 52 of complications following a broken hip and (probably) an overdose of alcohol. Nobody was suprised. Guy Clark says at his funeral that he "booked this gig 30 years ago." TVZ never made any money nor sold many records, but it's a pretty good guess that people will be singing his songs for the next 100 years. They're that good.

Among the people talking about TVZ in this film are his wives (three), children, and a host of other singers: Kris Kristofferson, Willie, Emmylou, Clark, Earle, and a bunch more. It's a touching and a frightening story. The story of TVZ is a bit like that of Vincent Van Gogh: immensely talented artists --but nobody envies them for their lives.

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Format: DVD
Van Gogh, Hank Williams, Janis Joplin, Townes Van Zandt. Why are the greatest artists often so disturbed and self-destructive? I saw Townes play live once or twice around 1971 in Austin, and although I later became a music publisher and saw hundreds of singer-songwriters perform, I always rated Townes the best. He was young, happy, funny, chatty, and rolled out tunes that were captivating , stunning, hilarious, amazing. In the restroom with a grin on my face, the hippy next to me said, "Are you digging Townes?" Yeah, I was digging Townes. 25 years rolled by and I wondered what ever happened to him. I heard some of his songs on the radio but I never saw him play live again. Rumors had it that he had an alcohol problem, and when he died his friends didn't seem surprised. Another 10 years later, I saw this film on the Sundance channel and it broke my heart. If you were expecting a concert, well, go live your life a while and then come back, because it's not so much about music or even about Townes, it's about all of us and what it means to be human and our need to be connected to others, and about mental illness, and how lucky we are to survive each day, and how badly we need people like Townes to inspire us and show us the truth.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Townes Van Zandt is revered in the music community for his ability to distill the essence of a song with a deftly picked acoustic guitar and brilliant lyrics that cut to the soul.

This biopic shows all sides of the songwriter; the genius, the alcoholic, the friend, the father, and the troubled soul.

I would highly recommend this for anyone who is a fan of Townes and anyone who wants a glimpse into the mind of a true musical visionary.
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Format: DVD
I was in Austin in '74-'81 when Townes Van Zandt was already a legendary songwriter, was really cool, but was gradually "losing his voice". I loved his songs and loved listening and dancing to his music. Now I've subsequently found that I really knew nothing about this tremendously talented, fragile songwriter. What a wonderful but crushing experience it was to watch this documentary. Heartbreaking and captivating, Margaret Brown has captured an essence of Townes' songwriting and life that is so personal, so raw and sensitive, that one feels they are personally hanging with him in the "double-wides", the pickups, and the clubs that provided the backdrop for his too, too short life. Wow, what a great flick! (and then check out Townes' live CD - "Live at the Old Quarter, Houston Texas").
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