John Townes Van Zandt (March 7, 1944 – January 1, 1997), best known as Townes Van Zandt, was an American singer-songwriter. Many of his songs, including "If I Needed You" and "To Live Is to Fly", are considered standards of their genre. He had a small and devoted fanbase, but never had a successful album or single and even had difficulty keeping his recordings in print. In 1983, six years after Emmylou Harris had first popularized it, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard covered his song "Pancho and Lefty", scoring a number one hit on the Billboard country music charts. Much of his life was spent touring various dive bars, often living in cheap motel rooms, backwoods cabins, etc.
He suffered from a series of drug addictions, alcoholism, and his tendency to tell tall tales. When young, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and insulin shock therapy erased much of his long-term memory.
Van Zandt died on New Years Day 1997 from health problems stemming from years of substance abuse. The 2000s saw a resurgence of interest in Van Zandt. During the decade, two books, Be Here to Love Me, a documentary film, and a number of magazine articles about the singer were created.