Music fans from around North Texas turned out for the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth's Friday night screening of Be Here to Love Me, a new documentary about songwriting legend Townes Van Zandt. (Van Zandt, who was born in Cowtown, would have been 62 today.) The 8 p.m. screening was introduced by Townes' son J.T., who recounted the family's Fort Worth roots for the sold-out audience (which included Townes' first wife, a bunch of former Texas hippies and members of the pAper chAse and Bosque Brown) before introducing the film.
Isaac Van Zandt, Townes' great-great-great-grandfather, was the Republic of Texas' ambassador to the U.S. and the namesake of Van Zandt County. "Then his grandson lost the Bank of Fort Worth in a poker match and lived up in Oklahoma on a reservation and came back with brown-skinned children, which we're pretty proud of, and that leads to Townes and I, a different deal than the Fort Worth legacy folks," J.T. said.
J.T. went on to praise the filmmaker Margaret Brown for her fair portrayal of his father; he then played three Townes tunes ("If I Needed You," "Only Him or Me" and "Nothin'"), earning a standing ovation from the teary eyed audience. The film that followed was a fitting tribute, tastefully balancing the tragedy and humor of Van Zandt's life through the use of music, archival footage and interviews with family and friends. (To see a drunken Guy Clark recall Townes hitting on his wife Susanna is worth the price of admission alone.) Perhaps out of respect, the film only hints at the fight over the late songwriter's publishing rights, summed up here, but a recent lawsuit filed in a New York federal court shows the battle for Townes' legacy continues. Be Here to Love Me opens this weekend at the Angelika Film Center. --Noah W. Bailey