Cosmic American Muse

More than 25 years after his death, the spirit of Gram Parsons rides high with a new tribute album

"Initially, the music was first and foremost with Gram, and that's when it was fun to work with the guy," Hillman recalls. "He was pretty regimented, as much as he could ever be. We were writing in the daytime. He was asleep when I started 'Sin City,' and I woke him up, so it wasn't the all-night songwriting episodes you hear about. It was like a nine-to-five job. But then he started to get overshadowed by the other stuff. He had been seduced by the glamour he hadn't really earned yet. He had jumped in the limo before he earned it. And he got confused by what he was going to be -- a country singer or an R&B singer.

High fashion king: Gram Parsons in his famed Burrito-era Nudie suit.
High fashion king: Gram Parsons in his famed Burrito-era Nudie suit.

"But Emmy once said that Parsons existed on another plane. He had this amazing sense of humor and dry wit. That was magical about him. The Nudie suit alone he had made says it all. It was tongue-in-cheek trailer-court country. And it was weird."

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