I received the news last night (Sunday) from a friend in Nashville that Justin Townes Earle was dead. My friend had gotten it very soon after the fact, since as I was checking the internet as soon as she texted me, there was next to nothing available news-wise. Within a half hour, the reports started rolling in.
Justin was way more than just the son of Steve Earle. His songwriting was amazing, way more noteworthy than what usually comes across from the child of a celebrity. Justin had a deep sense of human conscious that came across in his songs. Where his father’s songs usually had negative laments of past occurrences, Justin’s songs seemed more positive about future endeavors of humankind.
His adolescent and young adult life was not bright and shiny. Having Steve as a father figure was not the best influence. Steve had cleaned up by the time Justin reached adulthood, and he offered Justin a job in his band. He later fired Justin due to drug abuse. Justin was in rehab a few times, but in the last few years, he was clean and sober, He was enjoying life as a husband and father of a three-year-old daughter.
I had first met Justin a few years back at an Americana Music Association conference. We talked a long time about non-music things, but I noticed how keen he was in observing human nature and interactions. That is a gift that writers have, and I believe he used it wisely. I went to many of his shows afterwards when he came through town here in Detroit, and he remembered me when we met up.
No cause of death has been announced. Because of his lifestyle, I am sure there will be a number of rumors spread. I just want to remember him as someone who was kind to those who valued his work, a person with a wonderful, slightly sarcastic sense of humor, and a performer who knew that there were better times for all of us ahead.
Rest easy now, my friend.