March 31st marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Jeffrey Lee Pierce who died at the age of 37. The founder and frontman of the seminal LA post-punk band The Gun Club was indeed a troubled soul, but one of the most influential and boundary pushing artists of the 80s.
The Gun Club released seven albums from 1981 through 1993 and Pierce also put out two solo records. He collaborated with artists such as Nick Cave, Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry (Pierce was a huge Blondie fan and even President of the Blondie fan club).
Pierce’s life was eerily similar to Gram Parsons, another musical enigma. He suffered from a number of maladies and addictions that left his health in question before he finally succumbed to a brain hemorrhage in 1996. After his death, friend and musician Cypress Grove was clearing out his apartment when he came across demos and unreleased material. In 2010 the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project launched a series of four albums on Glitterhouse Records featuring Pierce’s previously unreleased “works-in-progress”.
The Gun Club brilliantly merged punk with country, blues and rockabilly and Pierce was heavily influenced by all three; you can hear it in the stunning track Mother of Earth from their 1982 record Miami.
I’ve also included the documentary Ghost on The Highway: A Portrait of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and The Gun Club.
Mother of Earth
I’ve gone down the river of sadness
I’ve gone down the river of pain
In the dark, under the wires
I hear them call my name
I gave you the key to the highway
And the key to my motel door
And I’m tired of leaving and leaving
I can’t come back no more
Oh, my dark eyed friend
I’m recalling you again
Soft voices that speak nothing
Speak nothing to the end
Oh, Mother of Earth
Blind they call
But yet, stay behind the wall
Their sadness grows like weeds
Upon my thighs and knees