Harry Dean Stanton was a man made for cinema in the same way that David Bowie was fated to be from outer space. You simply couldn’t picture Harry Dean Stanton selling used cars or sitting in a boardroom taking in a presentation. However, stick him in a baseball cap and have him wander the desert and you’ve got yourself a captivating story summed up in an effortless pastiche.
His natural weather-beaten look and seemingly wandering soul, however, are also befitting of the sort of harmonica harper who sits on some dusty porch and gets paid for open mic nights with hard liquor. This is the exact image he propagates on the 2014 record Partly Fiction.
The album saw Stanton, perform his own stirring renditions of American folk songs, from Kris Kristofferson numbers like ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’ to old Mexican folk songs like ‘Canción Mixteca’ which first featured in Paris, Texas as Ry Cooder and Stanton laid down some tracks for the atmospheric soundtrack.
Throughout the album, he lends his lived-in voice to these age-old tales. It is a unique exposition with certain outsider music overtones, in the sense that you feel he’d record the tracks for an audience of one and with that comes the sort of sound that could haunt an empty house.
One song, in particular, that drips with so much experiential depth that you could drop an A-bomb into it and never live to see it explode is his version of Fred Neil’s ‘Everybody’s Talkin’’ made famous by Harry Nilsson’s epic interpretation for Midnight Cowboy. The tale of drifting into a comatose state of narcotic upheaval or else, on a more surface reading, finding a patch of tranquillity and relishing in it, is the glass slipper moment of the album where Stanton seems to happen upon a song that was written just for him by some mystic figures of fate and slowly weaved its way to him.
Back on October 23, 2016, Stanton took to the stage at an awards show in tribute to himself and performed the classic number with Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Depp on acoustic guitar. Rarely has a performance seemed to have less mind for the audience in attendance. In fact, you’d be hard pushed to actually call it a performance at all. Far from being critical, however, this is what makes it so peculiarly captivating – he just seems to be in his own world of thought and the result is utterly fascinating.
Enjoy the clip, below.