Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris

"Years ago," Emmylou Harris said, "I had the experience of sitting around in a living room with a bunch of people and singing and playing, and it was like a spiritual experience, it was wonderful. And I decided then that was what I was going to do with my life -- play music, do music. In the making of records, I think over the years we've all gotten a little too technical, a little too hung up on getting things perfect. We've lost the living room. The living room has gone out of the music, but today I feel like we got it back."

That's fine ... when you have a voice like hers the perfection is already present.  I saw her twice ... once in a lovely auditorium in Northampton, Mass. -- where I teared up and quietly sobbed throughout her version of Steve Earle's "Goodbye" -- and once in a sort-of-barn converted to a performance hall in Marlboro, Vermont.  She converts any building -- auditorium or a barn --into a cathedral.

She's said to have been "discovered" by Gram Parsons when he and the Flying Burrito Brothers were touring; on a night off, they went to a small club in Washington, D.C., and Emmylou was performing.  Parsons talked her into singing backup on some songs he was planning to record.  While they were listening to a playback of one particular song ... if I remember right it was towards the end of "Hickory Wind" -- Parsons said to her, "That note right there ... that note is going to make you famous."

She's recorded about forty albums since 1975.  Parsons never heard any of them; he died on Sept. 19 1973, in a motel room in Joshua Tree, California, of an accidental drug overdose.

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