Just being in the world is a hard bargain. Everything has a price, a blessing and a curse.
You have to grow up, start paying the rent and have your heart broken before you understand country.”
It was a totally new world. I was a person who never had fun in high school because I was too busy being a grade-A student, and here Gram was with people who really knew how to enjoy themselves. I was very much the country mouse, trying to be professional, always turning up on time, ready to work, while Gram seemed very untogether. This was a man who really had a vision; the problem was, he was drinking heavily. I didn’t think the record would ever get made.
Gram was always fine when we were singing together. That was one thing I could do for him. It was when I wasn’t around that he seemed to get into trouble. It’s a great regret of mine. How could I not have seen it coming? He was so young, and such a strong presence, I couldn’t imagine he wasn’t gonna be there always. The most dismaying thing to me is that I was too self-absorbed in what I was getting from Gram musically to notice what was happening to him. I was too focused on me, and discovering this incredible music.
I didn’t have any chance to grieve in the traditional way. First, Phil Kaufman intercepted the air ambulance transporting the body, drove the coffin out into the desert, doused it in kerosene and burnt it, in accordance, he said, with a verbal instruction from Parsons. Next, I was told I would not be welcome at the memorial service in New Orleans. Gram’s wife was deeply suspicious of me. She’d already vetoed his plan to put my name and image next to his on the cover of Grievous Angel. Now she was barring me from the church. I was left running away from my grief. I just got in my little car and drove all over America for months, looking for people who knew Gram who could comfort me, looking for any piece of that time I could hold onto.
Animals have a much better attitude to life and death than we do. They know when their time has come. We are the ones that suffer when they pass, but it’s a healing kind of grief that enables us to deal with other griefs that are not so easy to grab hold of. I think one of the keys to any kind of peace in the world is to live in the moment. I guess that’s why I love dogs so much, because they are so in the moment. They just keep bringing you back to that.