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November 08, 2007

A Note From Jeanene Van Zandt

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I've written numerous times about the late Texas folksinger Townes Van Zandt, one of my very favorite artists. My biggest posting about him is here.

The other day I received an email from Townes' widow, Jeanene Van Zandt. Since I was very moved by her reflections and her memories, I asked her if I could reprint her email to me as a blogposting in its own right. I'm pleased that Jeanene has agreed to let me do that. Here it is:

It has been almost 2 years since Michael wrote this beautiful piece on Townes and Margaret Brown's documentary "Be Here to Love Me: A Film about Townes Van Zandt." A Google Alert led me to it. It moved me. It made me cry.

I have been reading the remarks with a lot of interest, especially the ones that say they do not want to hear Townes’ music because he was a “bad man”.

I am hoping that with this post I might change your minds.

By now, the film is out on DVD.

I am the girl in the story who asked God to "Please, don't let this be HIM!"

However, the answer came back to me Loud & Clear, that it was "HIM". I knew that God wanted me to care for this man, His poet servant, and that our souls had known each other forever. You just cannot argue with that kind of stuff! We were perfectly suited for each other. Where he was weak, I was strong. Where I was dumb, he was brilliant.

We loved all the same things and believed the same things. Yes he was difficult when he was drinking, but when you really love someone, it’s for better or worse.

Townes used to say to me, “My soul loves your soul, and your soul loves mine. We’re just being taken along for the ride and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it!”

I used to ask God all the time, “Why me? Why did you pick me?”

I don’t ask that any more. I understand now.

I do not regret one single moment I spent with Townes, and I spent 15 years with him.

When the times were good and we were alone, no other woman felt so loved.

I coped with the bad times by dividing Townes in half, Good Townes & Bad Townes.

I just loved Good Townes so much that Bad Townes just couldn’t do enough to kill that.

I have to agree with God. We were meant to be together. He needed me. He is gone, but I am still here with God whispering in my ear … Do not Stop. Never Stop. Do Everything you can do so that all people will hear these songs that I had my faithful poet servant write as on ode to me.

And I never will. People need these songs. They have healing powers.

You NEED to hear them.

If I can forgive him for the pain of wanting to save him, then so too should you.

Please find a quiet time, lower the lights and relax and listen to “Our Mother the Mountain” from beginning to end. Fill the room with it. See if something “divine” doesn’t happen.

Townes has been gone now 11 years this coming New Years Day.

I still miss him, I always will. I have not moved on. I have not found another Love.

I am still here doing what God asked me to do. I will do that until Townes and I are re-united in Heaven and he holds my face in hands and says, “Good job Babe. You did Good.”

Jeanene Van Zandt

"Our Mother the Mountain" is one of the Townes discs I'd suggest starting with too. "Flyin' Shoes" is another one. Margaret Brown's beautiful and poetic documentary about Townes can be bought here -- it doesn't cost much more than a music CD. If you visit YouTube and type "Townes Van Zandt" into the Search box, you'll find some footage of Townes performing and talking. Be sure not to miss this spellbinding performance of "Pancho and Lefty."

Please visit the wonderful website Townes Van Zandt Central, which Jeanene maintains. She also keeps a MySpace page. Do Jeanene (and thus Townes' legacy) a favor and buy CDs, t-shirts, and DVDs through her online store.

Many thanks to Jeanene Van Zandt.



posted by Michael at November 8, 2007


Beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Your post on Townes van Zandt may be the best thing you have had on the blog. It was a labor of love, and I am glad that Mrs. van Zandt found it.

Posted by: Lexington Green on November 8, 2007 9:30 AM

I love Townes the songwriter, on that level he's probably up there with Bob Dylan among American songwriters over the last 50 years or so, but I have always been uncertain about Townes the performer. I still find that I prefer his songs performed by Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson et al. Anybody else have any thoughts along this line?

Posted by: Thursday on November 8, 2007 12:47 PM

Lex: I know you have weird tastes, but not to that extent! "Beautiful" indeed.

Want to see an example of what I call a beautiful eulogy? Without the endless broken record of godspeak?

Posted by: Tatyana on November 8, 2007 1:43 PM

I don't really know van Zandt's music, but I can certainly identify with Jeanene.

No, you never get over losing somebody that you love that way. You live for the future when you will be reunited. The eternal story of Orpheus and Eurdyce is the only way to explain what this means.

And, Tatyana, that kind of love only makes sense in the presence of God. Praise to God is supposed to be an endlessly unbroken record. Those who are cynical and angry about this are really angry because that love has not yet been manifested to them. Once you experience it, no doubt is left about the reality and beauty of the Godhead.

I am reminded, Michael, of your bit about Betty Page. The union of sexual love and spiritual love is where God is found. And that is the most difficult balance to achieve in this life. Sexual love is such a rough and tumble mystery... not at all the way that it's supposed to be. Sexual love has no respect for ideology, respectability or, sometimes, even sanity.

One day, I will find Myrna again. That's how and why I continue to live. She isn't behind me. She's ahead of me and waiting.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on November 8, 2007 5:47 PM

Hey, he one time slept on my couch! Back in my Haight-Ashbury days . . .

Posted by: Luke Lea on November 8, 2007 10:13 PM

Scratch that previous post. I think I'm getting him mixed up with another musician of the time with a similar sounding name, the one who helped get Dylan started. Damn getting old is embarassing!

Posted by: Luke Lea on November 8, 2007 10:58 PM

Dave van Ronk, probably.

There are/were Van Zandts in Springsteen's band and the Allman brothers too. All unrelated, AFAIK.

Posted by: John Emerson on November 9, 2007 7:42 AM

Well, I have to agree with Tat on this one: all the God talk is a bit much. God never talked to me. Guess I'm not that special.

Posted by: ricpic on November 9, 2007 10:59 AM

Count me among the longtime fans of Townes van Zandt, both as a songwriter and as a performer. That Greenwich Village Dylan connection could also have been Eric von Schmidt.

While the remembrance Tatyana linked to is indeed a beautiful piece of writing, and while I do not attribute the key events in my life to the hand of God, it seems to me that she (and by extension ricpic) diminish themselves by using Jeanene Van Zandt's letter about her late husband as an excuse for making snarky comments. Sometimes tact and good manners trump complete honesty and candor.

Posted by: Chris White on November 10, 2007 10:05 AM

Tact and good manners should be exercised by all people, Chris. I would appreciate if my ears and eyes, already weary after 40 years of assault, were mercifully kept free from aesthetic horrors, at least in places that claim to supply 'quality' cultural content. I'd like some tact directed towards me, in not subjecting me to god-speak - or at least not calling that trivial nonsense beautiful.
[Please note: my remarks concern exclusively the quality of writing presented. Not the feelings, emotions or personal beliefs of the author]

There is no accounting for people's tastes.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 10, 2007 10:48 AM

God, Tatyana is behaving even more like a jerk than she normally does. I know MB doesn't usually delete comments, but those might be candidates.

Respecting the way other people choose to deal with the death of loved ones is pretty elementary courtesy.

Posted by: mq on November 10, 2007 4:10 PM

Feeling constipated, mq*? They have pills for that, you know? It would indeed be good manners to keep your ailment hidden from the public.

Posted by: Tat on November 10, 2007 9:31 PM

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