“You Sleep with None and You Wake with Ghosts”: Emmylou Harris as the Widow of Nashville

Emmylou Harris, Nashville, Tennessee, 1983, courtesy of Jim McGuire.

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“You Sleep with None and You Wake with Ghosts”: Emmylou Harris as the Widow of Nashville

by Marcus Desmond Harmon
Southern Cultures, Vol. 21, No. 3: Music

"Emmylou Harris's post-Parsons work is a celebration of complicated grief, casting about for ways to both 'move on' and stay faithful to the past."

Emmylou Harris’s solo musical career began with a death. On September 19, 1973, her duet partner Gram Parsons collapsed from a drug overdose and died in his hotel room in Joshua Tree, California. Harris and Parsons had just completed a successful tour earlier that year, and the two singers were eagerly anticipating a long-term musical partnership. At the time, Parsons was relatively obscure, best known for his brief tenure with the Byrds and for his countercultural country-rock group the Flying Burrito Brothers. Like many artists who meet an untimely end, Parsons’s stature increased dramatically in the years following his fatal heroin binge. His unexpected death and its bizarre, bodysnatching aftermath—his road manager stole his corpse from the Los Angeles airport and burned it in the desert—sparked wider interest in Parsons as both a musician and an icon of the 1970s country-rock movement.

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