Rock & Roll Summer Reading

Rock & Roll Summer Reading

A Deeper Blue: The Life and Music of Townes Van Zandt

by Robert Earl Hardy
University of North Texas Press, 300 pp., $24.95

The genius of Townes Van Zandt's songwriting is unavoidably cast against the backdrop of his bipolar struggle, juxtaposing his gregarious charismatic charm with his addiction-fueled depression. As the title suggests, A Deeper Blue, the second Van Zandt biography to emerge and first in the University of North Texas' Lives of Musicians series, defers heavily toward the darker hues of the artist's personality. Unlike John Kruth's To Live's to Fly, Robert Earl Hardy's writing remains detail-driven, excavating documents like the young Van Zandt's psychological evaluation from Galveston's Titus Harris Clinic, but lacks the anecdotal stories that would reflect the lighter, and often outlandish, aspects of the troubadour's life. Compounding the ill-balanced portrayal is the author's failure to secure the inclusion of his interviews with either TVZ manager Kevin Eggers or widow Jeanene Van Zandt, exacerbating the already-mired legacy battle between the two, while contributions from tour manager Harold Eggers and close friend Guy Clark are both noticeably absent. Hardy is most successful in his thoughtful analysis of the songs themselves, which he frequently considers autobiographical in terms of Van Zandt's endless internal strife, but that dichotomy never develops in his examination of TVZ's tempestuous life.

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