Classic Rock Review

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Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel DVD (2006)


The legend of Gram Parsons was cemented almost immediately after his death in 1973 when tour manager and friend Phil Kaufman stole his body from the Los Angeles International Airport and attempted to cremate it in Joshua Tree National Park. The myth and mystery surrounding that unfortunate incident long have overshadowed Parsons’ life and his music, both of which have had a significant impact upon an array of contemporary country and alt-country artists. In his documentary Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel, German director Gandulf Hennig takes a chronological approach to telling Parsons’ story.

Throughout Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel, friends and band mates alike give detailed accounts of Parsons’ work in The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers and as a solo artist, while his family and hometown pals provide insight into his upbringing as well as his family traumas. This includes the rampant alcoholism of his stepfather and his parents, his father’s suicide, and his mother’s death from cirrhosis of the liver. All of these form the backdrop for Parsons’ own story, which, in some respects, is one of privilege and excess, and in others, is one of dedication and inspiration. In the opening moments of Fallen Angel, former Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers band mate Chris Hillman summarizes Parsons’ life best by declaring that it was comprised of the stuff of a Tennessee Williams’ play.

In these ways, Fallen Angel answers many questions about Parsons the man, while also lending a voice to both sides of the argument about his motivations and his wishes. Hennig gives both Phil Kaufman and Parsons’ sisters a chance to sound off on the notorious attempted cremation. He also allows Keith Richards and Chris Hillman to have their say about Parsons’ departure from The Byrds in order to hang out with the Rolling Stones in London. On the other hand, he shies away from other lingering uncertainties, such as the details of Parsons’ relationship with singer Emmylou Harris. Overall, however, Hennig effectively explores Parsons’ musical journey, his influences, his battles with drugs and alcohol, and his untimely and truly tragic death, and in the process, he creates a portrait of Parsons that digs deeper than anything that has come before it.


May 12, 2010 - Posted by | Gram Parsons Fallen Angel DVD | ,

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