Townes Van Zandt was always one of those musicians who never saw the sort of fame that he deserved. Sure, his later life saw him gain him more recognition through his collaborations with various musicians, but the real meat of his career was often overlooked by a large percentage of the country music fans, let alone the mainstream music scene.
There’s a few famous stories about Van Zandt, namely that he spent most of the ’70s living in a small shack that had no electricity or a phone, or that the large majority of his musical career saw him playing only to smaller venues, dive bars and the like, but the main thing to take away is how overlooked he and his music was by your average music fans. Sure, his track ‘Pancho & Lefty‘ (which, by the way was called ‘Poncho & Lefty’ on early releases) became famous after both Emmylou Harris and Merle Haggard performed cover versions of it, but his back catalogue was a lot more than just this one track.
I first discovered ‘Waitin’ Around To Die’ via a cover by the Lemonheads. It inspired me to look up more of Van Zandt’s work, and I discovered a musician whose heroic, poetic songs were delivered with more sadness than many other musicians of the genre.
The song takes a stark journey through the life of a man who has lived with an abusive father, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and even a stint in prison. While many songs of the genre may take on a more depressive nature than many, ‘Waitin’ Around To Die’ not only takes you to the edge of the abyss, but Van Zandt’s resigned and sombre nature almost takes you over the edge, and into something terrible.