Jun 18, 2011

Pancho & Lefty, Part 2: Creators and Their Work

Pancho and Lefty
By popular demand, here are more versions of Pancho and Lefty,
two musical and four pictorial. Should we vote on which photo captures the essence of Pancho-Leftiness? 

If you choose to play along for a second day, please stay with the young Emmy Lou beyond the first verse, when the band joins her.    (By the way, was there ever really a 1977?)

Townes Van Zandt - Pancho & Lefty Video by searching for the sound - Myspace Video

YouTube - Emmylou Harris : Pancho & Lefty (1977)

Van Zandt singing his own song raises the question of how much stock we should put into a composer's performance of his own work. I think that's at least a question for Kris Kristofferson, or even the sacrosanct Leonard Cohen, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, yes, even the Beatles. I'd much rather hear Patsy Cline or Linda Rondstadt do "Crazy" than its creator, Willie Nelson (though he's good too).  And Patsy Cline/Linda Rondstadt or Hank Williams singing "I Can't Help It If I'm Still in Love with You"?  I'll take Patsy or Linda. Dylan doing "Blowing in the Wind" rather than Joan Baez or Odetta? I'll take either lady.

I don't mean to create competition where we don't need it; I'm harping on this because I think a lot of people don't want to hear that their idols are only wonderful in one aspect of a complex enterprise. The best of those composers' songs are masterpieces whether or not they're the performers, and often the songs are better off in someone else's throat.

Pancho and Lefty
I'm sure this is also true of classical music. Should we have stopped listening to Bach when he died?  Was Bach doing Bach the best Bach ever?

Most days this is a blog that's looks casually at literary matters. Whether or not you agree with my examples above, do you see why it's problematic to pay too much attention to the way a poet reads his own work? Writing with a pen and making sounds with the throat are two very different activities. Should we judge a composer by the way he plays the trombone? Greases his baseball glove?  The trombone and ball glove are instruments, tools; the human voice is an instrument. They often, often, often do not go together in one human mind and body.

Quiz.  Name three things that do not overlap or otherwise meld into one item:

a.    Monkey.  Screwdriver.  Alfalfa.
b.    Chewing gum.   Bedpost.    Overnight.
c.    Concept. Script. Performance.
d.   All the above.

Now I've caused myself to envision Lou Gehrig singing Verdi while playing first base . . . .

Pancho and Lefty

Pancho and Lefty
Townes Van Zandt - Pancho & Lefty Video by searching for the sound - Myspace Video

YouTube - Emmylou Harris : Pancho & Lefty (1977)


Pasadena Adjacent said...

I've heard Emmy Lou Harris sing this song a million times. I used to watch the young Emmy Lou perform at the Palomino Club when I was even younger, sporting my fake ID. Oh, not to mention the road trips with my best bud Ellen singing to Emmy Lou.

Banjo52 said...

PA, thanks. Can't imagine anyone having bad associations with Emmy Lou. Did you and road-trip Ellen also sing "Me and Bobbie McGee"?

P.S. Why does Emmy Lou sometimes (often?) use a guitar that's bigger than she is?

altadenahiker said...

They're all fine -- with the exception of the Willie & Merle because that lead in is so awful I expect them to break into "When you're between the moon and new york city."

When it comes to songs, hard to go wrong with the guy who brung her. So I'll vote for author.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I remember her guitar had a big red rose on it. Did she sing "Me and Bobbie McGee?" Really like the ELH CD Red Dirt Girl

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Red Dirt Girl

Banjo52 said...

PA, thanks for Red Dirt Girl. I didn't know it, and I like it.

Don't know if she sang Me and Bobbie McGee--seems to me it would suit her. But I was just referring to a road trip (and great! ) song.

Brenda's Arizona said...

I vote for Emmy Lou.
I didn't realize Pancho & Lefty were everywhere!

Anonymous said...

I am not a music critic so I am lost in this post. LOL

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