Gram Wrote “Wild Horses” and Here’s a New Interpretation, Take It or Leave It

gram_keith_Or at least co-wrote it. Gave the lyrics to Keith on the way out the door. Whatever, I don’t care. Some of us who know Gram’s style of songwriting (and love it) have always known it. And we also know the Stones’ style, both before and after meeting Gram. Now in the Feb ’13 issue of Uncut we have Mick’s brother saying it was a Gram Parsons’ composition (“not that he ever got anything for it”). And we have an old quote from Mick himself, “I remember we sat around originally doing this with Gram Parsons…” Etc. Really Mick, you “remember” that much… in ’71? And knowing Gram, I imagine he wasn’t doing anything? Just sitting around, watching? Right.

I won’t even get into the obvious about Jagger “allowing” someone to cut one of their best songs first.

But I’m not here to argue the point. Please! I know there’s no proof. Move on if you’re not interested in my new (well, I thought it out a few years ago) theory about what (and who) it’s about.

Heck I won’t even approve your comment if it’s just to argue the point or say there’s no proof. Already conceded that point.

Unless you believe in analysis of art and life as proof.

So on with it.

I’ve felt for years that the original lyrics, written by Gram and perhaps modified slightly by the Stones, were written about/for Gram’s sister Little Avis. I’ve read various interpretations of the song, and none seem to ring true. I believe this does. Gram felt tremendous responsibility for Avis after their parents’ death, and overwhelming guilt at times for leaving her. And, no doubt, some guilt over what was happening to him, and that he would also soon be leaving her for good. “Faith has been broken, tears must be cried.” His letters to Avis (see Meyer p. 163 et al.) to me mirror the thoughts and feelings in the song. With that in mind, the song here w/out all of the drag me away lines.

Childhood living is easy to do
The things you wanted I bought them for you
Graceless lady you know who I am,
You know I can’t let you slide through my hands

I watched you suffer a dull aching pain,
Now you’ve decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Can make me feel bitter or treat you unkind

I know I dreamed you a sin and a lie,
I have my freedom but I don’t have much time
Faith has been broken, tears must be cried,
Let’s do some living after we die

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.

(Yes, “Graceless Lady” could easily be a loving, personal reference to one’s younger sister.)

That’s it, nothing fancy; just obvious to me (and maybe only me, doesn’t matter). Blew this by Bob Kealing, author of the recently published Calling Me Home: Gram Parsons and the Roots of Country Rock and he… well, he’s staying with he’s got to mull that one over (he’s a journalist, darn them all, and they want facts!). I go with Faulkner, I don’t give a damn for facts, just the truth. And that’s what I hear in “Wild Horses.”


LittleAvispngAnd from Gram’s Notebook:




5 comments on “Gram Wrote “Wild Horses” and Here’s a New Interpretation, Take It or Leave It

  1. Joe Filippazzo says:

    I’m with you on this one…and I’m glad Gram got o record it too…

  2. Levi Pearson says:

    Other meanings proposed that I have seen include Keith Richards writing it to his year-old son, Jagger writing it about his codependent relationship with Bianca, and some combination of the two. The notion which first struck me was that it was about a relationship where a married woman rejected an outside suitor — like Guinevere and Lancelot but written by the rejected suitor.

    Since several people touched it on the way by, I’m not sure they couldn’t all be true.

    But I’m with you that it feels much more like Gram Parsons’ phrasing than the Stones. “Graceless lady” ( someone without the favor of God) is a profoundly Christian phrase.

    I do have to say that if you have to say that just one meaning is correct, I think your proposition that it was written to Little Avis by Gram is the best thought-out.

  3. This makes so much sense and I have always believed it to be mainly gram at least! I think also that Honky Tonk Women and Dead Flowers are his too,possibly also,The Girl with The Faraway Eyes.Would the Stones have even a clue as to what A Honky Tonk was ? I understood also that Gram sent the dead flowers to his wife accidentally by mail at a bad time in their turbulent relationship and the death lyrics are reminiscent of $1000 Wedding

  4. Philip Lindsay says:

    I can remember reading an article in the 1970s which claimed the Rolling Stones received regularly unsolicited lyrics for songs . Apparently amongst these were the lyrics for Sympathy For The Devil . It seems obvious that Gramm Parsons wrote the intial version of Wild Horses which Jagger admits to. HENCE END OF ARGUMENT/ DISCUSSION.

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