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Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons Paperback – September 15, 1998

4.0 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Paperback, September 15, 1998
$49.45 $3.73

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The bestselling author of "Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life" returns with a literary experience that is unprecedented, unforgettable, and explosively human. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This entertaining biography examines the eventful life of singer/guitarist Gram Parsons, who collaborated with the Byrds on the album Sweetheart of the Rodeo , founded the Flying Burrito Brothers with Chris Hillman and worked with country singer Emmylou Harris. Although Parsons achieved only minimal stardom prior to his 1973 drug-related death at age 26, his fusion of country and rock influenced such bands as the Eagles and the Grateful Dead. Fong-Torres ( The Motown Album ) describes the free-spirited, flamboyant musician's privileged but troubled Southern background and interviews individuals including the Byrds' Roger McGuinn, the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and loyal road manager Phil Kaufman, who, according to Parsons's wishes, attempted--unsuccessfully--to cremate Parsons's body in Joshua Tree National Monument, a park in California. Fong-Torres drops music-biz names and reports on the colorful 1960s and '70s fast lane with finesse; Parsons's profound, continuing impact is felt in admiring testimonies from friends and fans. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Parsons must receive the lion's share of the credit (or blame) for defining California "country rock." Before his early death in 1973, he recorded with the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and as a solo. Although he was not appreciated during his lifetime, his work is now seen as influential. As important as he may have been as an artist, Parsons personally was little more interesting than most other late-1960s burnouts, and his life proves thin stuff for a book-length biography. Fong-Torres, a respected rock music journalist and Rolling Stone alumnus, does his best to fashion a sensational narrative out of Parsons's 27 years, but falls short. His efforts to depict Parsons's early life in the South as a Tennessee Williams-style family drama, for example, is forced at best. Fans will love this book, but it holds little appeal for others. For larger music collections.
- James Stephenson, Soc. of the Cincinnati Lib., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (September 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312194641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312194642
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is a good introduction to the music of Gram Parsons, but not his life, however. While Fong Torres has gathered an impressive number of facts, these facts are also found elsewhere in the literature since the late 1960s. Anybody who has read Rolling Stone or any other magazine/book about music since the 60s has undoubtedly read all of these "facts." But several things stood out in my mind as being purely sensationalistic, i.e the "fight" with Clarence White--it never happened. Clarence and Gram were true friends and when Clarence had to call Gram down (nothing more than "You need to cut that out, man") for being rambunctious, that was all he had to do; Gram cooled it. Also, with all of the information out there, I cannot for the likes of me understand why the author neglected to mention that Gram had a bad heart; that being the reason he didn't go to Vietnam and also, why he was prescribed morphine. And though his lifestyle surely contributed to his early demise, it was his heart that was the true culprit. This book, more often times than not, seems only to sensationalize and dramatize the life and death of Gram Parsons. I think all due respect should be given to Gram and not needless hype.
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Format: Paperback
While there's a lot of his music that I've enjoyed, I've always been a little wary of the cult-of-personality that's surrounded Gram Parsons and his music. Ben Fong-Torres' biography about Parsons only reinforces this wariness; he had talent, sure, but he was also a grandmaster at screwing up the good things in his life. He had an enormous ego and an appetite for chemical recreation that seems upon reading to have been limitless. Who knows what could've happened if he'd partied a little less and moved music to the forefront of his life a little more? Fong-Torres may hold Parsons in high regard, but this doesn't prevent him from showing his subject's less admirable sides.
It also doesn't prevent him from showing that when Parsons really worked at it, what resulted was some of the best music that still resonates today. "Brass Buttons," "She" and the song that gives the title for this biography are today considered to be country ballad standards of the first stripe by many, and they deserve that honor. And if he wasn't necessarily the "father" of "country rock," Parsons certainly was one of the first to show that country with a rock attitude made for some great music. All you have to do is listen to his posthumous "Grievious Angel" collection for proof of that.
Fong-Torres spends less time on Parson's music than on his personal travails, but that's probably because the latter managed to undermine the former more often than not. That said, HICKORY WIND effectively displays the life of a guy who could've been a contender and, as it is, remains a lasting presence in the world of music.
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Format: Paperback
Gram was a fascinating character, but this book didn't really hook me the way the music does, and that's a let down. While not worthless, the writing seems extremely well researched but carelessly assembled, almost as if it were a string of magazine articles. Facts are introduced and re-introduced in an inelegant fashion, the author descends to first person unnecessarily, and jarringly illogical metaphors are stretched to the breaking point. Even more disappointing, the well collected facts and perspectives surrounding Gram's death are hard to follow and make drawing conclusions an academic exercise.
Gram Parsons was a singer of rare quality and luminosity. It's a shame that such a well-researched book turns out to be so devoid of luster.
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By A Customer on March 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Fong-Torres has done an impressive job of gathering facts on Parsons, but does little to paint a portrait of him as an artist and person. Too many seemingly important events are mentioned in passing only, as if they're were on Fong-Torres' list of things to include. This book tells you very little about a lot of different elements to Parson's life. I was left wanting to know more about fewer events.
This book is a very wide but very shallow storehouse of facts and snippets of interviews.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The definitive work for those interested in the short life and times of the original Rhinestone Cowboy. Credited by some as being the one who popularized the genre of Country Rock music, Gram disdained this term for his own "Cosmic American Music". Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Gram was probably cursed by genetics. His mother's longstanding bouts with the twin evils of alcohol and depression, and his father sharing those traits, conspired to doom a talent that is recognized more today than when he lived. An impetuous young man, Gram Parson's talent was unquestionable. His inability to manage that talent, while immersing himself in the most hedonistic pursuits of contemporary life, was a large part of his downfall. The story told within these pages is likely to move the reader; not so much in a sympathetic way, as Gram didn't evoke sympathy. He does, though, appear to be a product of his upbringing, which unfortunately led him down a path of self-destruction that ended in his untimely death in a high desert motel. This book reads well, written by an author who always pays attention to detail without inserting his personal judgement.
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