Gram Parsons, born Cecil Ingram Connor III, was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and pianist. He was born on November 5, 1946, in Winter Haven, Florida. He is considered a pioneer of the country rock genre, combining elements of rock, folk, and country music.
Parsons began his career as a member of the International Submarine Band, but he gained more attention as a member of The Byrds. He joined the band in 1968 and contributed to the album “Sweetheart of the Rodeo,” which was a departure from the band’s earlier sound and helped to establish the country rock genre. Parsons also formed the Flying Burrito Brothers with Chris Hillman, which became one of the most influential country rock groups of the 1970s.
Sadly, Parsons died at the young age of 26 on September 19, 1973, due to a drug overdose in Joshua Tree, California. However, the story of what happened to his body after his death is just as bizarre as his life.
After Parsons died, his body was stolen from the Los Angeles International Airport by his road manager, Phil Kaufman. Kaufman had made a promise to Parsons that if either of them died, the other would take their body to Joshua Tree National Park, where they both loved to spend time. Kaufman and a friend stole the body and attempted to cremate it in the park, but they were caught by the police and charged with theft of a coffin and interfering with a funeral. However, due to a legal technicality, they were only fined $750 for the crime.
The story didn’t end there, though. After Parsons’ body was returned to his family and buried in Louisiana, two women attempted to dig up his coffin. The women, who were fans of Parsons, wanted to fulfill a pact they had made with him to scatter his ashes in the Joshua Tree National Park. The women were caught by the police, and Parsons’ coffin was finally buried in an unmarked grave to prevent any further attempts to steal it.
Despite his short career and tragic death, Parsons’ influence on music is undeniable. He is often credited with helping to create the country rock genre and inspiring many musicians who came after him. His legacy continues to live on through his music and the many artists who have been influenced by him.
Gram Parsons had a tumultuous personal life, marked by drug addiction and numerous romantic relationships. He was married once to Gretchen Burrell in 1969, but the marriage was short-lived, ending in divorce the following year. He was also in a relationship with actress Pamela Des Barres in the early 1970s.
However, his most notable relationship was with Emmylou Harris, whom he met in 1972. The two began a professional and personal partnership, with Harris joining Parsons’ band and contributing vocals to his album “GP.” They were reportedly very close and had plans to collaborate on future projects, but Parsons’ untimely death cut their partnership short.
Parsons was also known for his heavy drug use, particularly with alcohol and heroin. His addiction led to several erratic and self-destructive behaviors, including destroying hotel rooms and showing up to performances high or drunk. His drug use may have ultimately contributed to his early death at the age of 26.
Despite his personal struggles, Parsons’ impact on music has been significant, particularly in the country and rock genres. His fusion of country, rock, and folk music has been influential to many musicians who followed in his footsteps. He is remembered as a talented and innovative artist who left an indelible mark on the music industry.