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Norah, Lucinda Honor Gram

California concerts remember country iconoclast

March 26, 2004 12:00 AM ET
Norah Jones, Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle will play Return to Sin City, a two-night, two-city tribute to Gram Parsons, the cosmic country singer-songwriter who died of a drug overdose more than three decades ago.

The shows, which will also feature Dwight Yoakam, the Mavericks, Jim Lauderdale and additional guests to be announced, will be held on July 9th at the County Bowl in Santa Barbara, California, and July 10th at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles.

The concert is being organized by Parsons' daughter and will feature artists from different generations covering Parsons material as a solo artist, as well as songs he did with the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the International Submarine Band. Parsons' career was short-lived, but influential. Though he only spent a few months with the Byrds, he's credited with pulling the band towards the country sounds found on its 1968 album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. His tenure was also short in the Flying Burrito Brothers, a group he co-founded with fellow ex-Byrd Chris Hillman.

Parsons' two solo recordings, 1973's GP and 1974's Grievous Angel, also introduced the world to the voice of Emmylou Harris, whom he discovered in a Washington, D.C., club. Grievous Angel turned out to be a posthumous album, though, as Parsons overdosed in September 1973, leaving music that has proved highly influential, if not exactly bountiful.

Parsons' cult legend was further cinched by the bizarre aftermath of his death, when his road manager Phil Kaufman hijacked his casket from the airport and took it to the Joshua Tree National Park in California, where attempted to cremate Parsons' body, per an agreement between the two. The incident provided the basis for the new feature film Grand Theft Parsons, which stars Jackass' Johnny Knoxville as Kaufman. "It has a lot of black humor," says Kaufman, who served as an executive producer. "I didn't want it to get too soppy." The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and opened in the U.K. this month. A U.S. theatrical date has not yet been set.

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