by John Townes Van Zandt
What a meaningful pleasure it was for my family when John Dickson contacted me to announce that the MusicFest 2013 Artistsí Tribute would be in honor of my father, Townes Van Zandt. For years now, MusicFest has done an amazing job in promoting and preserving great original American music by bringing the best songwriters and musicians that this country has to offer to one of the most beautiful places in our great land, Steamboat Springs, Colorado. My dad lived in Boulder as a child and eventually returned to attend CU, where he met my Mom.
The mountains of Colorado, with their valleys, rivers, and streams, have been the inspiration for many Townes Van Zandt songs, most likely because no place on earth offers the sanctuary one finds in the endless nooks and crannies of the vast public park land within the state. I also lived in Colorado for a while in the mid-1990s, guiding fly-fishing trips in the southwest corner of the state. No fonder memories exist than the days of finding out who I was while hiking and exploring the Weminuche Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains.
It was there that I realized for the first time how special my fatherís songs were and how powerful songwriting could be in terms of affecting the souls of others. I had always loved seeing my father play as a child and accompanying him on the road, but I was never quite aware then of how the message of his music would find me at a time when I was becoming the man I was to be within the solitude and sanctity of the mountains.
While Townes was living, he was not a recognizable figure. He was not a celebrity and we were never stopped in public places to be harassed or blocked from pulling away in our caróexcept, on occasion, by the cops. My dad was a modest man with a very kind and gentle heart who never met a stranger and who had a deep sense of understanding for the natural world around him. I think this, more that anything, gave him the ability to write with simplicity yet create such profound works of literature.
Townes never became a really big star, and I am pretty sure that he really didnít want to. He preferred to travel the country in his pickup, sleeping in the back and playing small gigs from town to town while trying to skin a few yanks along the way. He would always tell me that his career would take off after he was gone, and he was absolutely right. His songs have made him an obscure legend worldwide and one of the most respected songwriters of all time. I am very proud of how unaffected Townes was by the lure of fame and how he never compromised in his writing in order to fit in or be more commercial.
I canít wait to get up to Steamboat this coming January, which will be the 15th anniversary of my fatherís death, to celebrate his songs with everyone and to enjoy all of the artists playing at MusicFest 2013. I offer heartfelt thanks to John and Robin Dickson for inviting me and to the beautiful town of Steamboat, Colorado, for hosting the event. Together they are helping to keep genuine American music alive.
Iíll see you all there!
John Townes Van Zandt