Townes Van Zandt

by Milos Itic on October 8, 2012

I wanna write songs so good, nobody understand them, even me!

Townes Van Zandt is American Texas Country-folk, progressive country and country outlaw music artist and one (if not N0 1. ) of the best singer-songwriter on the world.


Townes is great music troubadour. He was legend back then, but he never had a successful album or single, and even had difficulty keeping his recordings in print. He never had money also. But, when Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard covered his song “Pancho and Lefty” scoring a number one hit on the Billboard country music charts.

“Humans can’t live in the present, like animals do. Humans are always thinking about the future or the past. So it’s a veil of tears, man. I don’t know anything that’s going to benefit me now, except love. I just need an overwhelming amount of love. And a nap. Mostly a nap” – Townes van Zandt


He always had a small and devoted people who listen his music. He is a rebel, hitchhiker and poet. He make really good atmosphere among the songs. Neighborhood bars, cheap motel rooms, backwoods cabins and friends homes are the places where Townes make his music. He was the master of songwriting. He ofter told the stories with stories with unbelievable elements. Steve Earle, one of his good friends, said:

“Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” – Steve Earle

“I’ve met Bob Dylan and his bodyguards, and I don’t think Steve could get anywhere near his coffee table.” – Townes Van Zandt.

Townes profile singer songwriter

When he was young, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and insulin shock therapy. This therapy erased very much of his long-term memory. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas. At Christmas Eve in 1956, Townes’ father gave him a guitar. He would later start playing when he saw Elvis Presley on the television.

Aloneness is a state of being, whereas loneliness is a state of feeling. It’s like being broke and being poor.  I feel aloneness all the time and loneliness I hardly ever feel.”


His own life often seemed like some twisted ballad, and what you feel when you listen his songs, you also see his biography and thoughts. In 1958 the family moved to Boulder, Colorado. He later wrote two songs reminders from that period: “My Proud Mountains” and “Colorado Girl“.

How come most of your songs are sad songs?

“I don’t think they’re all that sad. I have a few that aren’t sad, they’re like… hopeless. Totally hopeless situation and the rest aren’t sad they’re just the way it goes. I mean you know you don’t think life’s sad.” – Townes


Later, he was very good at team sports in the schools. Townes Van Zandt had a very high IQ and his parents wanted for him to become a lawyer or even senator. His family soon moved to Houston, Texas. Later, he started to drink and have couple episodes of depression. They admitted him to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where he was diagnosed with manic depression. Then, he received three months of insulin shock therapy, which erased much of his long-term memory. Afterwards, his mother feel that she make mistake, about this treatment. He definitely quit school around 1967, having been inspired by his singer-songwriter heroes to pursue a career in playing music.


I don’t think they’re all that sad. I have a few that aren’t sad, they’re like… hopeless. Totally hopeless situation and the rest aren’t sad they’re just the way it goes. I mean you know you don’t think life’s sad. – Townes

“I think he shot himself in the foot every single fucking chance he got. ” – Steve Earl

Among Van Zandt’s major music influences was great Texas blues man Lightnin’ Hopkins, then Guy Clark, Muddy Waters, Mozart, The Rolling Stones, Blind Willie McTell, Tchaikovsky, Richard Dobson, and Jefferson Airplane.


“But Townes is literally legendary. And Townes is getting more famous the longer he’s gone; that’s real–life legendary shit. But the fact of the matter is, there’s kind of a handful of us that saw it. And we’re all not going to be around forever, either.” – Steve Earl

“I don’t think there’s any evidence that Pancho and Lefty even knew each other. So, you tell me — what is that song about?

One interesting fact, Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt both died on New Year’s Day.

“Waitin’ around to Die” is first (serious) song by Townes van Zandt and he wrote this song in time that he was with his wife in a honeymoon.

Townes and sorrowSong Meanings:

Second Lover’s Song

 “You whisper soft to me
That I ain’t the only one”

He love and there is no jealousy.

“Do you think I really care?
Do you think it matters? “

“My lady can’t you see
I love not jealously”


“Well, won’t you lend your lungs to me?
Mine are collapsing”

“Breath I’ll take and breath I’ll give” Townes don’t want free breath from this world and this people

“Pray the day ain’t poison
Stand among the ones that live
In lonely indecision.”


One of another masterpiece from Townes van Zandt. It is starting like that:

“It’s plain to see, the sun won’t shine today
But I ain’t in the mood for sunshine anyway”

and then 3 more in the same line.

Maybe I’ll go insane
I got to stop the pain
Or maybe I’ll go down to see Kathleen

Ride the north wind down to see Kathleen.

Stars hang high above, the oceans roar
The moon is come to lead me to her door
There’s crystal across the sand
And the waves, they take my hand.
Soon I’m gonna see my sweet Kathleen.”

Townes friends: Stars, Oceans, Moon, Crystal, Sand and Waves.

Maybe I’ll go insane
I got to stop the pain
Or maybe I’ll go down to see Kathleen.

Masterwork in 5 lines. Story has been told. One hour film. Complete life. More then one.

 San Cinderella

When your teardrops go sour and no longer fall

Waiting Around To Die

“Sometimes I don’t know where this dirty road is taking me
Sometimes I can’t even see the reason why
I guess I keep on gamblin’, lots of booze and lots of ramblin’
It’s easier than just a-waitin’ ’round to die”

“Now I’m out of prison, I got me a friend at last
He don’t steal or cheat or drink or lie
His name’s codeine, he’s the nicest thing I’ve seen
Together we’re gonna wait around and die”

Townes and sorrowTownes-and-Jack-Daniels

Studio albums:

  • For the Sake of the Song – 1968
  • Our Mother the Mountain – 1969
  • Townes Van Zandt – 1969
  • Delta Momma Blues – 1971
  • High, Low and in Between – 1972
  • The Late Great Townes Van Zandt – 1972
  • Flyin’ Shoes – 1978
  • At My Window – 1987
  • The Nashville Sessions – 1993 (recordings from the aborted Seven Come Eleven album, recorded 1972)
  • No Deeper Blue – 1994
  • Riding The Range( only two songs: Riding The Range and Dirty Old Town ) – 1996
  • A Far Cry From Dead – 1999 (later-life studio guitar and vocal recordings posthumously overdubbed)
  • Texas Rain: The Texas Hill Country Recordings – 2001
  • In the Beginning – 2003 (studio demo recordings from 1966)



  • Waiting Around to Die/Talking Karate Blues – 1968
  • Second Lovers Song/Tecumseh Valley – 1969
  • Come Tomorrow/Delta Mama Blues – 1971
  • If I Needed You/Sunshine Boy – 1972
  • Honky Tonkin’/Snow Dont Fall – 1972
  • Fraulein/Don’t Let the Sunshine Fool Ya – 1972
  • Greensboro Woman/Standin’ – 1972
  • Pancho and Lefty/Heavenly Houseboat Blues – 1972
  • Pancho and Lefty/If I Needed You – 1973
  • Who Do You Love/Dollar Bill Blues – 1978
  • When She Don’t Need Me/No Place to Fall – 1978
  • Dead Flowers/Fraulein/Racing in the Street – 1993 (German CD single)
  • Ain’t Leavin’ Your Love – 1999 (US CD single)
  • Riding the Range/Dirty Old Town – 1996
  • Snowin On Raton – 2001 (US CD single) -from Texas Rain
  • Highwaykind – 2002 (CD single)


I am personally honored as a guitarist the challenge living the finger picking style I’ve come to hear. Incredible soul of Van Zandt, with every all respect, regretfully not ever meeting Townes. J A D

by Joe De La Garza on November 22, 2012 at 01:40. Reply #

The picture above from Heartworn Highways with Townes Van Zandt, Seymour Washington and a young girl smoking a cigarette: is the girl Susanna Clark?

Thank you.

by Catherine Esche on July 9, 2014 at 01:44. Reply #

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