Cynics have suggested that death is a shrewd career move for some artists, and when it comes to singer-songwriter Gram Parsons, whose life, work, and demise are chronicled in Fallen Angel, they may be right. Although undeniably talented, Parsons never had a hit and made just six albums, and only one of them (the Flying Burrito Brothers' The Gilded Palace of Sin) is a bona fide classic. That's one reviewer's opinion, anyway. Yet three decades after he died (in 1975, at age 26), Parsons is revered as a country rock pioneer, a significant influence on Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones, and a colossal talent who never got his due. While that may all be true, what's beyond dispute (and it's confirmed by the great majority of those interviewed in director Gandulf Henning's documentary) is that Parsons was a screw-up, a drunk and drug abuser who squandered his opportunities and dug himself an early grave, even by rock star standards. It wasn't all his fault. Any kid with a family background like his (his father committed suicide and his mother died from the ravages of alcoholism possibly with the assistance of her second husband, Parsons' stepfather, who was a big drinker himself) is bound to have, shall we say, issues; Parsons was also well off financially, a fact that many interviewees (most notably Chris Hillman, who played with him in the Byrds and the Burritos) suggest might have attributed to his lack of driving ambition. Richards, duet partner Emmylou Harris, and other former bandmates are on hand to tell the tale, along with his widow, various surviving relatives, and close friends and associates. There's lots of Parsons' music on the soundtrack, as well as excerpts from a couple of Burritos promo films and some interesting footage of him singing with Harris. In the end, the film's most haunting moments concern the events that followed Parsons' death, when road manager Phil Kaufman commandeered (stole, actually) his casket and drove it to California's Joshua Tree National Monument, where he set it on fire, apparently according to the singer's wishes. Now that is the stuff of legend. --Sam Graham
You take any cop on the force, cream or no, ninety-nine percent of the time they're doing their job, aren't they?
Point five. So he or she, cream or no, is doing more good out there every day than any lawyer or stockbroker or president of the United States can ever do in thier lifetime. Cops are the chosen people.