For the Sake of the Song

Essays on Townes Van Zandt

978-1-57441-859-0 Cloth
6 x 9 x 0 in
256 pp. Notes.
Pub Date: 07/07/2022


  • Cloth $29.95 s
After death, Townes Van Zandt found the success that he sabotaged during life. Diagnosed as bipolar, an alcoholic, and perennially unreliable, Van Zandt died of heart failure at the age of fifty-two on New Year’s Day in 1997. He released sixteen albums during life. Since his death, several more albums have been released, both by and in honor of him. Many articles and books have been published about him, including Robert Hardy’s A Deeper Blue by UNT Press.

Van Zandt, the self-destructive wandering troubadour, was long underappreciated but is now a favorite among critics and fans. His best-known songs are “Pancho and Lefty,” covered by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, and “If I Needed You.” Steve Earle’s 2009 cover album, Townes, jump-started a slate of tributes, including those by Robert Earl Keen, Lucinda Williams, and John Prine.

For the Sake of the Song collects ten essays on Townes Van Zandt using a variety of approaches. Contributors examine, for example, his use of the minor key, the psychological dimension of his song “High, Low and In Between,” and his reception in the Austin music scene. His relationships receive consideration, as well, through the observations of Richard Dobson, another “outlaw” singer-songwriter, with whom he toured in the Hemmer Ridge Mountain Boys. An introduction by editors Ann Norton Holbrook and Dan Beller-McKenna provides an overview of Van Zandt’s literary excellence and philosophical wisdom, rare among even the best songwriters.

Published by University of North Texas Press