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Live from Carnegie Hall: Townes Van Zandt

On the 16th anniversary of his premature death in 1997, this week's Live from Carnegie Hall takes a look back at singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt's sole Carnegie Hall appearance.

Artist: Townes Van Zandt
Album: A Gentle Evening with Townes Van Zandt
Label: Dualtone Music Group
Date Recorded: November 26, 1969
Fun Fact: Comedian and political activist Dick Gregory appeared on the same bill.

On November 26, 1969, Carnegie Hall was the venue for a revue titled Poppy Gives Thanks, during which the independent record label Poppy Records showcased some of its talent. The lineup for the evening included comedian and political activist Dick Gregory, progressive rockers Mandrake Memorial, and Townes Van Zandt, a 25-year-old Texan singer-songwriter who was only a few years into his professional career.

Van Zandt had previously released two studio albums from which he drew much of the set list for his only Carnegie Hall appearance. The relatively short set—the album runs only about 30 minutes in length—included "Tecumseh Valley," "Like a Summer's Thursday," "Second Lover's Song," and "She Came and She Touched Me" from those two albums. The other two songs on the set were a cover version of Peter La Farge's "The Ballad of Ira Hayes"—made famous by Johnny Cash five years earlier—and the self-penned "Talking KKK Blues."

The tape of Van Zandt's performance was "lost" for years as Poppy Records was subsumed by a couple of major labels; the recording only saw the light of day in 2002, almost a quarter century after the event.

Van Zandt never again played at the Hall and, following a troubled life, died at 52 years of age on New Year's Day, 1997.

Live from Carnegie Hall SeriesHall History

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