Fifty years ago, Daniel Antopolsky found himself stranded in a motel with his good friend Townes Van Zandt. They each took the opportunity to write a song. That day, Van Zandt’s effort was ‘Pancho and Lefty’. Legend has it that the character of Lefty was based on Antopolsky, his left-handed, troubadour, touring companion. Anotpolsky wrote ‘Sweet Lovin’ Music’, which would wait until 2013 before being recorded. The lives of these young country ‘outlaws’ veered in such different directions after Antopolsky saved Van Zandt’s life following a drug overdose. Van Zandt went on to become country music royalty. Antopolsky left the music industry behind, escaping the traumas of life on the road with the other outlaws. He went looking for something more meaningful and spiritual. He travelled and saw the world, eventually settling on a farm in France, where he raised a family…and chickens. Oh, what might have been.
Decades of farm-life near Bordeaux never dulled Antopolsky’s passion for music and he never stopped crafting new songs. There are now somewhere in the region of five hundred songs in his repertoire. Ideas come while he’s out on the tractor observing the natural world around him; these are authentic songs about rural life and landscapes. Antopolsky’s music is the traditional, story-telling stuff of simpler times; but these are times and songs now celebrated by the likes of the Black Deer Festival.
Antopolsky delivers songs with a large dose of humour and country-charm. There aren’t many people who could pull off a song about the chickens he raised but couldn’t eat because he’d given them all names. Who else could get away with naming an album ‘Old Timey Soulful Hippy-dippy Flower Child Songs from the Cosmos…Wow’?
Antopolsky was lost to the music industry, if not to music, for so many years. Despite those early days playing alongside the likes of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, Antopolsky didn’t actually record any songs until he was 64 years old when he was re-discovered by a film producer, Jason Ressler, who championed his music. There are all sorts of life-lessons in the story of Daniel Antopolsky: never give up; inspiration never dies; there is no place for regret in a life well-lived.
Antopolsky is playing two shows at the Black Deer festival, on Friday and Sunday, which means that you have two chances to experience one of the genuine, original country outlaws, who happens to be peaking at the age of 70 with his first ever festival appearance outside the USA. As a special treat for UK fans, Antopolsky will be playing two songs about London, the only city that this country singer has written about. This is a rare opportunity. Don’t pass it up.
Photo from Bush Hall, 2018 (courtesy of Jeff Goldberg)
Porch photo – Townes Van Zandt, Susanna Clark, Guy Clark, Precious the cat and Daniel Antopolsky (courtesy of Al Clayton)