#90: 1975, Emmylou Harris, Boulder To Birmingham

by Jackie_South on February 16, 2011

Yesterday, that incurable romantic Ray North posted Kinky Love. I’m no great romantic myself, but for me Boulder To Birmingham has to be one of the greatest, and certainly one of the most sincere and heartfelt, love songs ever written.

Emmylou Harris was Gram Parson’s protege and lover. She was left utterly devastated when Parsons died of a massive morphine overdose in a motel at Joshua Tree in the Californian desert in 1973, and she spent years trying to process what happened.

Boulder To Birmingham is part of that process.  She references the bizarre DIY cremation that Parsons’ manager gave him in the desert:

The last time I felt like this
It was in the wilderness and the canyon was on fire
And I stood on the mountain in the night and I watched it burn
I watched it burn, I watched it burn.

Emmylou’s beautifully fragile voice brings home the heart-wrenching rawness of her loss:
“Well you really got me this time,
And the hardest part is knowing I’ll survive.”

And the chorus sums up her desperation to bring him back – she would walk all the way across the States to her Alabaman hometown if she could see Gram just once more:

I would rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham
I would hold my life in his saving grace.
I would walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham
If I thought I could see, I could see your face.

For me, this very personal song of a woman who is still struggling to come to terms with what has happened may very well be the greatest song about loss of all time.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

George_East February 16, 2011 at 12:34 am

What a stunningly beautiful song this is from that opening line ‘I don’t want to hear a love song’ onwards. Full of genuine emotion and how can any one not be affected by that peerless voice. I absolutely adore it. Great great choice. If you hadn’t I certainly would have.


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