Townes Van Zandt, massive self-destruction

On Arte, “Be there to love me” tells about the sabotaged career of the American singer. Despite his talent and the strength of his compositions, widely covered, his addictions will make him miss success.

Some of the Townes van Zandt’s songs are so strong, so fabulous, that the American himself was convinced of the need to record them several times. Among them, Kathleen , Tecumseh Valley , or the anthem ultimate of fatal wandering along a sun-drenched road, back drenched in sweat, mouthful burnt with drought: Waiting Around to Die, which none of the musicians, numerous, who have taken it over the years have succeeded in rendering the peaceful and too comfortable despair with as much precision as his songwriter. So the native of Fort Worth, Texas, probably had the idea of ​​titling his first album For the Sake of the Song , because hers mattered more than anything to her. They also counted enormously on those who appropriated them and allowed them to become hits, Emmylou Harris ( If I Needed You ), the Tindersticks ( Kathleen ) or Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson ( Pancho & Lefty ), not to mention the public, for whom they are more important than ever a quarter of a century after his tragic disappearance.

Desire to write a great song His beloved songs, yet Townes Van Zandt would often write them on the fly, upon waking up, in the middle of the afternoon, after a night of drinking. The miracle, for his friend Guy Clark, songwriter of the anthem LA Freeway , was that the singer, a severe alcoholic, remembered it. another hour after composing them. Among the most intense moments of Be there to love me, the documentary that Margaret Brown devoted to Van Zandt in 1997, there is the one where Clark, disappeared in 2004, evokes the first time he had the chance to hear Marie , masterpiece of the last album by Van Zandt No Deeper Blue released in 1994, in which he tells the agony of a homeless man, under a bridge, and of the child she carries in her womb. “He calls me to ask me to come and listen to him. A sheet of paper on his knees, he plays Marie in full. he tells me that he just wrote it that very morning. And I, “ are you kidding me”. That night, he played it across the street, and he remembered every word. ” Another moment in the film shows Van Zandt himself, towards the end of his life, confiding his ultimate desire to write a song so awesome that he himself wouldn’t understand its true meaning.

But the biggest conundrum about Townes Van Zandt, in his own eyes included, was his life, how it played out, how he conscientiously set about screwing it up from end to end. Not particularly cursed at birth – his parents were neither poor nor unloving – he apparently suffered from a profound psychic illness, which made reality and relationships so odious to him that he had no other choice. than to put your head upside down to support them. Alcoholic, as has been said, a long time heroin addict, Van Zandt lived on the outskirts, often in slums, until his sudden death in 1996, even as his songs, performed by others more famous, but who knew they were less gifted than him, pranced at the top of the charts. “As far as shooting himself in the foot, he knew how to aim very well”, said one day about him his most faithful disciple , Steve Earle, well placed to speak of the unreal capacity of Van Zandt to sabotage himself, he who once played Russian roulette in front of his friend, who had nevertheless struggled to find him accommodation at a time when the singer touched

Tragic and unfathomable destiny No doubt to pass Townes Van Zandt next to success, the singer sabotaging several tours and at least two albums ( Sky Blue , recorded in 1973 and output as 2016, and a aborted album with Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth in 1994) because he was dead drunk from morning to night. She also screwed up her relatives, her three wives, her many children, all fans of their father’s songs, and whose testimonies in the film make this precipitate of a fate as tragic as it is unfathomable, poignant in a unique way. Townes Van Zandt hovered very high, indecently talented, inspired, messianic like no one but Dylan may be, in his ability to precipitate the singularity of human experience in a few verses, and to hide her confusion, her weakness, her terror in the determination of her voice so beautiful and so strong. “I programmed this concert thirty-seven years ago”, declared Guy Clark at his funeral, before resuming one of his songs. The only thing in life that Townes Van Zandt was capable of besides screwing up was to write the most beautiful songs in the world. We can console ourselves on his account by remembering that he knew it.

Be there for me like (2004), by Margaret Brown, on Arte in the night from Friday to Saturday to 00 h 22 and in replay on Arte.tv. To see on Arte

Friday August 6, from 20 h 55

Sing Street, Irish musical drama film directed by John Carney, followed by Ron Howard’s documentary The Beatles: The World is Ours bringing together unpublished archives.

Sunday August 8, from 21 time

Good Morning, Vietnam, Barry Levinson’s masterpiece that revealed the talent of Robin Williams followed by The History of The Eagles, a two-part documentary that looks back on the career of the American band.

Friday 13 August, from 22 h 25

Barbra Streisand – Birth of a diva, the tale of an irresistible rise, followed by Tina Turner, the rage to live, the tumultuous journey of a swing with incomparable style. One Night Only – The Bee Gees Live in Las Vegas, a concert shot in 1997, will close this evening.

Go to Arte. tv / summer to see or review the Summer of Voices programs.

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