"Honest, unbiased look at the troubled career and existence of one of America's greatest songwriters.... A poignant, clear and vivid portrait."

Kirkus Reviews


"Hardy delineates the musician's chaotic life in honest, often dramatic detail, but always brings the attention and focus back to Van Zandt's music and the classic songs he penned.... Steering through the myths and legends, the author depicts a troubled individual and gifted artist who inspired many singers and songwriters in the alternative country scene."

— Billboard.com


"In this extensively researched and footnoted book, Hardy states that Van Zandt's 'craft was inextricable from his life,' and he is particularly adept at setting the context of Van Zandt's life within the musical scenes in which he lived and worked, all the while illustrating the intersection of his personal life and the creative process."

— Jim Collins, Library Journal


“Robert Earl Hardy's biography of the late Townes Van Zandt, A Deeper Blue: The Life and Music of Townes Van Zandt, is an excellent look at the complex and troubled life of one of the most compelling songwriters to emerge from the fertile Texas musical landscape. Hardy's work enhances John Kruth's 2007 biography To Live's To Fly: The Ballad of the Late, Great Townes Van Zandt with a more scholarly and focused effort. After almost a decade of research, including conducting numerous interviews with musicians, family members, and close friends, Hardy's clear, chronological narrative and expansive endnotes make his book an essential read for anyone interested in the life and works of this enormously talented and influential artist....


Hardy relates the near-mythic tales of Van Zandt's life on the road, love affairs, marriages, friendships, bouts in rehab, and creative process, through clearly attributed anecdotes woven into a balanced and well-organized narrative. He does a particularly nice job with historical context—illuminating the cultural landscape at different points in Van Zandt's life and musical development. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Hardy's work is his treatment of the songs themselves. Throughout the book, he explores the circumstances that led to their creation and offers analysis of the lyrics—providing a deeper understanding of the artist and his art.”

— Deirdre Lannon, Texas Books in Review, Center for Texas Music History


A Deeper Blue is first and foremost a study of a gifted singer and songwriter. Hardy examines each of Van Zandt’s best-known songs as they emerged during his career, exploring both music and lyrics with a musician’s sensibility. Like most of us, Hardy wants to know where these songs came from and how they were written. His discussion of Van Zandt’s best-known hit, “Pancho and Lefty,” reflects the ambiguity and mystery surrounding his music and his psyche. ...


For all his gifts, and for all that he did “for the sake of the song,” Townes Van Zandt’s personal life is a story of descent into darkness. ... Townes struggled with serious medical and psychological problems throughout his adult life, and his family and friends bore the brunt of his recurring episodes of self-destruction. It is necessary to chronicle this roller-coaster ride through both darkness and light—as Hardy has done with such credibility and human detail—in order to appreciate the complex reality behind such stock phrases as “troubled troubadour” and “tragic genius,” which have so often been used to label Townes Van Zandt. ...


Robert Earl Hardy has performed a labor of love—sometimes tough love—to reveal the life of Townes Van Zandt in all its complexity, and his music in all its truth and beauty. ... A Deeper Blue is a must-read for anyone who would glimpse the soul of this true Texas legend.”

— John Wheat, Journal of Texas Music History, Vol. 9 (No. 1), 2009



"Robert Earl Hardy’s A Deeper Blue covers Townes Van Zandt in a literary manner that presents a lucid picture of the legendary songwriter.... A Deeper Blue proves a commendable work on Van Zandt’s life. Hardy traces Van Zandt’s family history, recording sessions, songwriting, cultural backdrops and turbulent circumstances with respect — without overlooking Van Zandt’s business and personal flaws. Hardy also does a fine job of injecting Van Zandt’s humorous side into these pages, a side of Van Zandt’s personality generally overlooked in recent books and articles.... Hardy never loses sight of Van Zandt’s deft songwriting. In fact, the songwriting remains the cohesive theme in every chapter.... Hardy provides informative insight regarding every album in the songwriter’s discography, and Van Zandt’s final days — a troubadour until his death on New Year’s Day 1997. A Deeper Blue serves justice to Van Zandt’s life, sorrow and his timeless songs."

— James Calemine, Swampland.com


"Van Zandt is not just a Texas musical icon but one of the greatest country-folk songwriters who ever lived, and the life he lived all but embodied the notion of ‘tortured artist.’ Suffering from both severe alcoholism and bipolar disorder, Van Zandt also created songs of stunning eloquence, beauty and humanity that will echo through history as some of modern folk music’s greatest creations. Writer and musician Hardy renders the sad yet still inspiring tale of Van Zandt’s personal and musical journey with a fine depth and directness that lets the reader make their own assumptions about the tangled intertwining of muse and emotional dysfunction."

— Rob Patterson, The Progressive Populist


"Bob Hardy has done a remarkable, detailed job in recreating the 70s and 80s Texas music scene. He's also done his research when it comes to TVZ ... can't say when I've read anything so well documented."

— Terry Mathews, Sulphur Springs News-Telegram


"Robert Earl Hardy's A Deeper Blue: The Life and Music of Townes Van Zandt is the first biography of this truly unique songwriter, and gives compelling insight into Van Zandt from his early childhood on. A Deeper Blue not only explores this man's life but also the roots and enduring brilliance of his greatest songs... Throughout this incredible biography Hardy illustrates the genius, and many demons, that Van Zandt has dealt with in his storied career."

— Strand Bookstore


In A Deeper Blue, the anecdotes and conversations are carefully chosen and powerfully and sometimes sadly, illuminate the life of this Texas troubadour. ... Hardy was thorough and careful in his research, and to his credit, though the author was honest, direct, and revealing, he never came close to voyeurism or paparazzi cruelty in his evaluations or revelations. The chronology of Townes’ life was woven carefully with photos and the threads of songs (with origin and anecdotes), lyrics, and performances. When I finished the read, I felt I had looked inside the mind and heart and music of Townes Van Zandt. ... I purchased this biography to learn about a great musician, and Hardy came through. Overall, I would have to highly recommend this biography.

— Rickey E. Pittman, A Southern Missive


"A Deeper Blue ... gives fascinating insight into what inspired this sweet-singing, tortured genius and what inevitably brought him down. His songs stirred the soul and seemed to well from its darkest depths. He became the patron saint of many a Texas songwriter in his day and will continue to inspire for generations to come. Save a tear for Townes. You’ll need it."

— Joe Ely


"This is an account of a period of time in music history as well as of one man’s struggle with his own life, a struggle that uses the creative process as a way to salvation....

Hardy’s book carefully documents many of the facets of this gem of a life. His love for the music shines through, just as the spirit of Townes shines through each song."

— Kathleen Hudson, founder, Texas Heritage Music Foundation

and author of Telling Stories, Writing Songs: An Album of Texas Songwriters

 

"The author talked to many, many people who knew Townes. His work offers a wealth of anecdotes and information."

— Louis Black, editor, Austin Chronicle, and executive producer of Be Here To Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt


"The secret of Townes is love."

— Susanna Clark


 

Reviews of A Deeper Blue

“Hardy’s sparkling biography of the tragic, magic life of Townes Van Zandt is a must-read for anyone who loves music or likes to raise hell. A Deeper Blue demonstrates why Van Zandt has become Texas’ version of Mozart, Van Gogh, and Hank Williams all rolled up into one brilliant and beautiful burrito."

— Kinky Friedman


  

A Deeper Blue has been

ANTHOLOGIZED

in Literary Houston

published by TCU Press

edited by David Theis


“…might best be called Cubist, with all the angles and oddities in perspective that implies. About 60 entries cover nearly 500 years.”

Houston Chronicle


Among other fine entries—including excerpts from Joe Nick Patoski’s biography of Willie Nelson and Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, plus pieces from authors such as Stanley Crouch and Donald Barthelme—this anthology of writing about Houston contains a seven-page excerpt from A Deeper Blue recounting Townes Van Zandt’s earliest days as a songwriter and folksinger.

 
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