Monday, November 23, 2009

Blaze Foley - the original drunken angel

In selecting our songs, the Angry Penguins were very taken with Lucinda Williams' beautiful song Drunken Angel (from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, 1998)

The song is about Blaze Foley - a hitherto obscure Texan songwriter and activist who was reportedly born in a treehouse and spent a great deal of his life homeless.  Blaze (whose real name was Michael David Fuller) was known for his fascination with duct tape and his generous philanthropy.  Although he was reputedly homeless for a good deal of time, he donated the proceeds of his one and only accessible album to a homeless shelter.  

In 1989, at the age of 39, Blaze was shot protecting a feeble, elderly man.  Unfortunately, after his death, the album proceeds went towards covering funeral costs.  All along the way, Blaze seemed to be plagued by bankrupt record companies and rip offs.

His work has been covered by Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and John Prine. His two most noted songs are 'If only I could fly' and 'Clay pigeons'.

It must be said, sources around the life and times of Blaze Foley are scant and there seems to have been made numerous starts on documentaries about his life.  Casey Monahan provides one particularly useful account of the life and times of Blaze. 

Blaze Foley was really two people.  There was the caring, loving altruist, then there was the ornery, drinking poet.  The former killed him, the latter was always killing him (Monahan, 1998)

However, Lucinda Williams words are perhaps the most evocative:

You're some kind of saviour singing the blues
A derelict in your duct tape shoes
Your orphan clothes and your long dark hair
Looking like you didn't care, drunken angel

Blood spilled out from the hole in your heart
Over the strings of your guitar
The worn out places in the wood
The ones that made you feel so good, drunken angel

(The drawing of Blaze is by C.P. Vaughn, 1988)


Wolfgang Sonnen said...

Actually, I would like to add a link to the most complete history of Blaze's life:

A tribute 4-CD box (one disc contains videos of a few rare live performances and studio recordings from other artists) can be found at Borderdreams:

And a documentary of his life has just been put out by Kevin Triplett, the trailer and more info can be found here:

Angry Penguins said...

Thank you for these, Wolfgang. They are excellent.