Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  300 ratings  ·  60 reviews
As a singer and songwriter, Gram Parsons stood at the nexus of countless musical crossroads, and he sold his soul to the devil at every one. His intimates and collaborators included Keith Richards, William Burroughs, Marianne Faithfull, Peter Fonda, Roger McGuinn, and Clarence White. Parsons led the Byrds to create the seminal country rock masterpiece Sweetheart of the Rod...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published September 16th 2008 by Villard (first published October 30th 2007)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 608)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Mike Lindgren
Dec 05, 2007 Mike Lindgren rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Gram Parsons fans
Shelves: nonfiction
It took Gram Parsons just over six years to change the face of American music. Parsons brought fresh force to country tradition with the International Submarine Band, remade the Byrds in his own image on the classic Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, founded the Flying Burrito Brothers, and recorded two solo albums of aching beauty, all before his death in 1973.

Along the way, he taught the Rolling Stones about country music, discovered Emmylou Harris singing in a nightclub in Washington D. C., wrote a ha...more
As a huge Gram Parsons, and "cosmic American music" fan in general, I've read a few Gram Parsons biogs. This one is the most insightful and thorough. It fills in a lot of gaps that were left from readings of other GP books, such as the brilliant Hickory Wind by Ben Fong Torres (which is a brilliantly written book by a great rock journalist).

It doesn't hold back; yes, Gram was a little rich kid, yes, he wanted to be a superstar, yes, he came from a self-destructive family, yes, he killed his own...more
Apr 09, 2008 Marci is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I'll let you know. But, it is the third or fourth Gram Parsons' bio I have read/own. I will never get sick of hearing different people's perspective of him or hearing about the times he spent with people.
Jul 18, 2008 Gina rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: musical historians
Recommended to Gina by: I walked past it in the library
This book is up around five hundred pages. It took me a long time to read, as it is very dense with facts. Most of the facts are salacious and fun, like details about Keith Richards unmatched drug use, or what band spawned what band because of what bitchy little argument. I found the whole thing fascinating, but I missed Gram in there somehow. I don't blame the author for this. He interviewed everyone who ever knew the guy, and both sides of his family. He is SO thorough. I just get the impressi...more
Terri White
This book haunts me. The author exhaustively researched Parsons' tragic life, from birth to death. The story begins with his tragic family - a father's suicide when Gram was just 12 years old, an alcoholic mother, a very wealthy southern upbringing, etc. The book is also a chronicle of the music scene in the late 60s/early 70s. To me, it was a tragedy of a man with a vision who couldn't get out of his own way. He was self-destructive, but gifted. I have always believed that Parsons doesn't get t...more
This was not only the best Biography ever written about Gram, but one of the best Biographies I have ever read in my life. Written so eloquently. He was fair and honest. This book was amazing and full of talks with people who haven't talked about Gram until now. A great read for ANY music fan. Let alone someone who loves Mr. Parsons.
"As a capper, Dylan obsoleted the whole idea of folk authenticity by turning into a rocker..."

Surely a labour of love but more repetitive than a drunk at a shotgun wedding.

The best biography I have read about Gram Parsons. A must read for Parsons' fans.
so far i am learning a great deal about the history of citrus growers in florida, and the passive self destructive life led by country-rock pioneer gram parsons. a kind of sad character. at first i was put off a bit by the amount of detail in this biography, but after giving it a chance, i enjoyed it greatly. some of the descriptions of the music seemed a bit excessive, but i found it very interesting listening to the records being described in great detail. the byrds' sweetheart of the rodeo al...more
He could break your heart with a song.

Gram Parsons was a brilliant musician with an encyclopedic knowledge of American roots music. He was easier on the eyes than most and, thanks to his trust fund, had the financial freedom to roam as he pleased. His time was short but his impact was monumental.

His charm came from his daddy, Ingram Cecil “Coon Dog” Connor, a former WWII flying ace. His wealth came from his mama, Avis Snively, whose own father had built Snively Groves, at the time the third lar...more
David Meyer writes about Gram Parsons, with an almost poetic cadence to his words. Meyer understands the interplay of types and shadows that helped to form a man who is at once accessible somehow an archetype of something greater. A man with a voice who once heard, suddenly reaches out and touches that lonesome place deep within all of our hearts. A man who was a wanderer--who never truly felt at home in this world. Moving on and leaving others behind was how Gram coped with the vicissitudes of...more
Another decade, another Gram book! This one has the benefit of containing what would seem to be the first play-by-play of the night of Gram's death from the two ladies who were there at the time-and the jury is still out for me as to whether or not that's a good thing. Not to mention the fact that it's got the best cover of any of the Parsons bios! Other than that, what you have here is an entertaining, highly readable book that, if you've read any other Parsons book, will tell you very little...more
The rehabilitation of Gram Parsons the musician, one of the popularly under-appreciated influences that emerged from the maelstrom of the 1960's musical scene, is unquestioned. Without Gram, The Byrds would not have recorded "Sweethearts of the Rodeo" and the incongruously named Flying Burrito Brothers would have never released their "Gilded Palace of Sin," two shockingly country roots albums with rock/pop sensibilities that foreshadowed the emergence of the alt. country scene in the 1990's that...more
Oct 28, 2009 Conrad marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
In case you're not familiar with Gram's body of work, drop what you're doing RIGHT NOW and listen to "Hickory Wind," maybe the most beautiful song I can think of, or "$1,000 Wedding," which has scintilating, inscrutable lyrics and a great duet part for Emmylou Harris.

Reviewers seem to think this is the best bio of Gram Parsons. He was painfully private and not entirely socially comfortable, so anyone writing a book about the guy really has their work cut out for them.

Gram Parsons's music is coun...more
Jessica McCarthy
An enjoyable read, this was a very thoroughly researched and dense biography of an incredibly complex, troubled, creative, insecure, confident, aware, talented and entitled man. The ultimate insider/outsider. While David Meyer gave us what appears to be a very balanced and unbiased view of the various opinions people held of Gram he certainly did not hold back in his own editorializing of other music of the era -- a very scathing passage about the Eagles is a good example. Coming from the perspe...more
False Millennium
Born into wealth. Died wealthy, all from his mother's citrus grove money of the Snivelys. Never developed, lived a louche lifestyle, even as a child/teen. Had lousy friends, to say the least. Both parents, including a stepfather, all alcoholics. Father a suicide. Why seek ambition when everything has been given to you? His life was one car wreck after another. And that burned at Joshua Tree story is highly disturbing. Friends opening his coffin to mock his penis size and flick his nose before po...more
Albie Cullen
I am a big GP fan. The effect of "Cosmic American Music" is just being realized today. By definition the subject matter is tragic. The book is extremely detailed with regard to the musicians and songs on which they played. In fact my only criticism is the painstaking detail takes away from the pace of the story. I can't imagine a more definitive version of GP and his music. So if you are a fan you will find this interesting but for the casual observer I think it will be tough going.
A little too detailed, but a very good read. It made Gram feel like a really like-able guy, which was nice. You might not like the book so much with all the details if you are not familiar with Gram's music or his impact on the music world. I didn't know that much about him until I was reading some other things, which led me to then I become interested enough to buy an actual book about him. "Hickory Wind" was good too, and a little shorter.
Lollipopwater Norton
This is a book I feel I would like to own, if only for music reference. There is so much history on roots/country/rock n roll music, it was actually a bit overwhelming for me. David Meyer is incredibly thorough and detailed with this biography.

While this bio left me feeling frustrated by Parsons, I also felt appreciative of him; I had never realized the extent that his music reached.
Exhaustive history tracing Gram's story back to his ancestry. Inferring that his lineage of alcoholism and depression laid a framework that would ultimately be difficult to break free from, but that his own genius and talents were enough to do it--had he wanted to.
Meyer is awed by Gram's amazing gifts and abilities, but disappointed and subtly disgusted by Gram's choice to throw it all away.

To be honest I still haven't finished it. Gram had an interesting albeit depressing as shit life. And every single detail is accounted for in this 500+ page book. I feel like his story could've been told in a more interesting way and in about half the pages. Still, if you're a fan you will enjoy. If you aren't a true fan and just wanna be entertained rent the movie Grand Theft Parsons instead.
This book is written as casually as Gram Parson's approach to his musical career. The style can make for interesting reading and setting a robust mood, but is sometimes distracting and hokey, but overall it is a comprehensive window into Gram Parson's life... its best moments actually occur during the descriptions of Parson's parents, grandparents and his childhood in rural Florida.
I can't wait to read this. From what I understand it's a completely exhaustive look at GP, his family history, musical influence, just everything. I'm a huge huge fan and look forward to this book.

(also I highly recommend the doc "Fallen Angel")

Read it, loved it, though it is definitely for fans. Gram was a lazy genius who left too soon.
Interesting book if you want to know EVERY SINGLE PERSON he has ever plucked a guitar with in a bar or on a recording.
I definately had to put it down a couple of times (like now). And I haven't even gotten to when he hooked up with the Byrds yet. But I will finish it because I love his music so much and he died too young.
I didn't really know anything about gram parsons before I read this, but enjoyed it. The bromance stuff between him and Keith Richards was my favourite. Kind of more about the dark side of the 60s, which gets whitewashed by boomer nostaglia all the time, so kinda liked that about it too.
Really really well researched and quite dense with facts, but an awesome introduction to not only Gram but the rock and country music scenes of the late 60s/early 70s - including the Byrds, Dylan, the Stones, and of course, the Flying Burrito Brothers.
This was definitely a detailed, well-researched bio about one of my all-time favorite song writers. After finishing, though, I’m left with the feeling that he was sort of a jerk. Why can't any of the songwriters I like be nice people? Ha ha.
The best sort of biography. One need know nothing of Gram Parsons or his wonderful talent to be completely fascinated by this work. A great document of the road to a wild time and place and some of the folks who walked along it.

This book was sat on my shelf a coupla years before I got around to reading it. After reading Fong-Torres' "Hickory Wind" years ago I thought I knew the tale of Gram Parsons. Wrong. That bio is positively lightweight compared to this tome.
Scott Finley
If you don't know who Gram Parsons is, listen to his music. If you do, this book does a good job of breaking down the myths that surround him. Recommendation for the author...more pictures and less use of the word "lugubrious".
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 20 21 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons
  • Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters
  • Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?: The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American Music
  • This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band
  • Across the Great Divide: The Band and America
  • According to the Rolling Stones
  • Nico: Songs They Never Play on the Radio
  • Searching for Robert Johnson: The Life and Legend of the "King of the Delta Blues Singers"
  • Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia
  • On the Road with Bob Dylan
  • Moonage Daydream: The Life & Times of Ziggy Stardust
  • Strange Fascination: David Bowie: The Definitive Story
  • Eye Mind: Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators
  • Crazy Diamond: Syd Barrett and the Dawn of Pink Floyd
  • The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones
  • Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues
  • Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head
  • Bird Lives!: The High Life & Hard Times of Charlie (Yardbird) Parker
The Bee Gees: The Biography The 100 Best Films to Rent You've Never Heard Of: Hidden Treasures, Neglected Classics, and Hits From By-Gone Eras A Girl and a Gun: The Complete Guide to Film Noir on Video

Share This Book