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The Legend of Gram Parsons, in 12 Songs

Parsons was a huge inspiration for Elvis Costello’s 1981 country covers album, “Almost Blue,” and on it Costello offered his own renditions of two Parsons songs, including this arresting take on the Flying Burrito Brothers’ goofily titled classic “Hot Burrito #1.” Costello, though, decided to change the song’s name to reference a memorable lyric in the refrain: “I’m your toy, I’m your old boy/But I don’t want no one but you to love me.” (Listen on YouTube)

We’re talking Los Angeles here, not Vegas. Perhaps the greatest example of the briefly simpatico songwriting partnership of Parsons and the former Byrd Chris Hillman, this twangy ballad captures the mood of late-60s Southern California burnout in the fiery spirit of the Louvin Brothers. (Listen on YouTube)

For better and for worse, Parsons spent a lot of time in the late ’60s and early ’70s hanging out with the Rolling Stones, particularly Keith Richards (who admitted to Fong-Torres, “yes, maybe hanging around the Rolling Stones didn’t help him in his attitude towards drugs”). Parsons taught Richards a lot about American country music, though, and many people claim his influence can be heard on “Exile on Main St.” songs like “Sweet Virginia” and “Torn and Frayed.” That exchange could also be reciprocal, though, like when Richards let the Flying Burrito Brothers record his band’s new song “Wild Horses” before the Stones did. (Listen on YouTube)

For “GP,” his 1973 debut solo album, Parsons recruited much of his hero Elvis Presley’s red-hot old backing band: the guitarist James Burton, pianist Glen D. Hardin and drummer Ronnie Tutt. They lend an air of experience and polish to Parsons’s own compositions, like the lively country throwback “Still Feeling Blue.” (Listen on YouTube)

Ostensibly — if somewhat inscrutably — about the auto pioneer E.L. Cord, “The New Soft Shoe,” another highlight from “GP,” boasts one of the loveliest and most wistful melodies Parsons ever wrote. (Listen on YouTube)

At a tour stop in Boston, a young poet named Tom Brown handed Parsons a sheet of vivid lyrics he’d written with Parsons in mind. They became the basis of the laid-back, lived-in “The Return of the Grievous Angel” — destined to become one of Parsons’s signature songs. (Listen on YouTube)

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