Gram Parsons: The New Soft Shoe
E.L. Cord was a visionary and innovator, the brains behind the famed Cord automobile of the 1920s and ‘30s. Cords were the first to sport front-wheel drive and retractable headlights. As technologically advanced as his cars were, Cord was known for lavishing even more attention on the way his vehicles looked. That tendency to put style ahead of profits had predictable results. Cord was derided by rivals, and his company, Illinois-based Auburn Automobile, went belly up during the Depression. Later, Cord headed west, where he made and lost and re-made a fortune in investments. He dabbled in politics and bought and sold real estate, oil wells, radio stations and the company that eventually became American Airlines. His critics claimed he lacked focus, his admirers said he was too wild and creative to be pigeonholed.
Something in Cord’s story resonated with Gram Parsons -- himself a restless spirit, who jumped from enterprise to enterprise. In his autobiography, Keith Richards recalls being told by Parsons that he was “writing a song about a guy that builds cars.” That song was “The New Soft Shoe,” one of the shining moments on "G.P.", Parsons’s debut solo album. The Parsons song offers only a brief biographical sketch. But he makes his point: Art has its place. Each generation needs a new Cord. And each will face new challenges.