Ingram Cecil Connor III (November 5, 1946 – September 19, 1973), known professionally as Gram Parsons, was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and pianist. Parsons is best known for his work within the country music genre; he also popularized what he called "Cosmic American Music," a hybrid of country, rhythm and blues, soul, folk, and rock. Besides recording as a solo artist, he played with the International Submarine Band, The Byrds, and The Flying Burrito Brothers. His relatively short career is described by AllMusic as "enormously influential" for country and rock, "blending the two genres to the point that they became indistinguishable from each other."
Parsons was born in Winter Haven, Florida, and developed an interest in country music while attending Harvard University. He founded the International Submarine Band in 1966 and, after several months of delay, their debut Safe at Home was released in 1968 (by which time the group had disbanded). Parsons joined The Byrds in early 1968 and played a pivotal role in the making of the seminal Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. After leaving the group in late 1968, Parsons and fellow Byrd Chris Hillman formed The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1969, releasing their debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin, the same year. The album was well received but failed commercially; after a sloppy cross-country tour, they hastily recorded Burrito Deluxe. Parsons was fired from the band before its release in early 1970. He soon signed with A&M Records, but after several unproductive sessions, he canceled his intended solo debut in early 1971. Parsons moved to France, where he lived for a short period at Villa Nellcôte with his friend Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. Returning to America, Parsons befriended Emmylou Harris through his friend and former bandmate Chris Hillman. She assisted him on vocals for his first solo record, GP, released in 1973. Although it received enthusiastic reviews, the release failed to chart. His next album (Grievous Angel) met with a similar reception and peaked at number 195 on Billboard. Several years of alcoholism and drug abuse severely deteriorated his health, and he died in 1973 at the age of 26.
Since his death, Parsons has been recognized as an extremely influential artist, credited with helping to found both country rock and alt-country. He never agreed with the term "country rock", as he felt his work should not be categorized into a single genre because it was rather a unique blend of many genres and styles of music with his own personal twang.
His posthumous honors include the Americana Music Association "President's Award" for 2003, and a ranking at No. 87 on Rolling Stone's list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time."
The King and I Edit
At a music industry party in Malibu, California held by Lou Meshejian of Newville Records, Richie Finestra and Zak Yankovich meet with Gram Parsons and Stephen Stills. While trying to sway the both of them to come on over to American Century Records, Gram tells Richie that he's planning on going to Joshua Tree with his girlfriend. He encourages Richie that he should get out to Joshua, and gives a captivating description of the park as an place of “wild silver and furious gold," and "where the desert meets the sky," suggesting that Richie could maybe rediscover “that thing of beauty maybe you lost or let go.”
- 1973, Gram Parsons did travel to Joshua Tree National Park with his high school girlfriend, his assistant Michael Martin and Martin's girlfriend. Parsons spent time in the desert during the day and at local bars at night, consuming barbiturates and alcohol every day. On September 18, after injecting himself with morphine, Parsons overdosed. He was declared dead on September 19, 1973, upon arrival at the hospital.