A long overdue distinction for one of country music’s greatest songwriters will finally come to pass. Announced at a press conference Tuesday morning (8-9) in Nashville, Townes Van Zant will be inducted into the prestigious Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, along with fellow songwriters Aaron Barker, Beth Nielsen Chapman, and Bob Morrison.
Van Zandt’s contributions to country—including the #1 ‘Pancho & Lefty” for Willie Nelson, and Emmylou Harris’s hit “If I Needed You”—have long gone under-appreciated by songwriting institutions, despite his name looming large among fellow songwriters, performers, and country fans for many years. Van Zandt’s death on New Years Day in 1997 cut his career short, and never gave him the coronation fellow songwriters of the era such as Guy Clark received later in life. Townes’ tragic life and death have made him almost a mythical character to some, including a legendary appearance in the Outlaw documentary Heartworn Highways.
“Townes really believed in the healing powers of music, and songwriting especially,” his son Will Van Zandt said at the press conference. “He dedicated his whole life to it. He never bragged or boasted about it. He was quietly a very proud person. I know this means a lot to him, and it means a lot to us in his family.”
Townes Van Zandt is #5 on Saving Country Music’s Greatest Songwriters of All Time.
Among the other Hall of Fame inductees, Aaron Barker is known best for writing songs for George Strait and Aaron Tippin among others, and for being the voice in the commercials for Blue Bell ice cream. Beth Nielsen Chapman’s contributions include Willie Nelson’s “Nothing I Can Do About It Now” and Tanya Tucker’s “Strong Enough To Bend.” And Bob Morrison is best known for writing Johnny Lee’s standard “Lookin’ For Love.”