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This Week in Texas Music History: Townes Van Zandt

by Stephen Becker 12 Mar 2011 10:33 AM

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll remember one of the state’s most gifted songwriters who went from riches to rags.


Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman remembers one of the state’s most gifted songwriters who went from riches to rags.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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Townes Van Zandt was born in Fort Worth on March 7, 1944. He grew up in a well-to-do family, but he was attracted early on to the music and itinerant lifestyle of Woody Guthrie. Van Zandt’s life-long struggle with alcohol, drugs and emotional problems affected him deeply and seemed to provide inspiration for some of his best-known songs, including “White Freightliner Blues,” “If I Needed You” and “Pancho and Lefty.” Townes Van Zandt died of a heart attack following hip surgery in 1997, but dozens of other artists, including Guy Clark, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen, cite Van Zandt as one of their single most important musical influences.