The singer-songwriter and son of Steve Earle was found dead on Sunday at age 38 in Nashville.
The weekend concluded with the terrible news that another great songwriter has died, leaving behind a wife and daughter, heartbroken fans, social media reactions from famous admirers, and a trove of albums full of anachronistic blues-inspired Americana songs from Yuma in 2008 up until last year’s The Saint of Lost Causes. Justin Townes Earle, 38, was found after Nashville Fire Department personnel forced entry into his apartment during a welfare check. He had not been heard from since Thursday.
Earle was the son of the iconic country-rock singer-songwriter Steve Earle and partly named for his father’s mentor and friend, the late Texas singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt. For better and for worse, he followed in his father’s footsteps from an early age. Like the elder Earle, he was an accomplished songwriter and a serious musician burdened by addiction. Steve Earle claims more than 25 years of sobriety after a struggle with heroin, cocaine, and other substances led to 60 days in jail on weapons and controlled substances charges. Justin Townes Earle, his oldest of three sons, has talked about his own problems with substances, particularly opiates including heroin, that began as early as age 12. He was a performing songwriter by age 14. Before striking out as a solo artist, Earle’s early bands included a ragtime group called the Swindlers and a country-punk group called the Distributors.
His discography of rootsy Americana music includes folk, country, blues, soul, Western swing, and more. We’ve put together a playlist of music to give new listeners an idea of what he was about and longtime fans a chance to remember a few old and new favorites.
- The Ghost of Virginia
- Hard Livin’
- Harlem River Blues, with Jason Isbell, live on the Late Show With David Letterman
- White Gardenias
- Single Mothers
- Absent Fathers
- The Saint of Lost Causes, live on the Right Note
- Looking for a Place to Land
- Far From Me, with John Prine