Though other performers sold more records and earned greater fame, few had as profound an impact on contemporary music as Emmylou Harris. Blessed with a crystalline voice, a remarkable gift for phrasing, and a restless creative spirit, she traveled a singular artistic path, proudly carrying the torch of "cosmic American music" passed down by her mentor, Gram Parsons. With the exception of only Neil Young -- not surprisingly an occasional collaborator -- no other mainstream star established a similarly large body of work as consistently iconoclastic, eclectic, or daring; even more than four decades into her career, Harris' latter-day music remained as heartfelt, visionary, and vital as her earliest recordings.
Harris was born on April 2, 1947, to a military family stationed in Birmingham, Alabama. After spending much of her childhood in North Carolina, she moved to Woodbridge, Virginia while in her teens and graduated high school there as class valedictorian. After winning a dramatic scholarship to the University of North Carolina, she began to seriously study music, learning to play songs by Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Soon, Harris was performing in a duo with fellow UNC student Mike Williams, eventually quitting school to move to New York, only to find the city's folk music community dying out in the wake of the psychedelic era.
1969 original - Jubilee - 2 variations, above & below left
1979 reissue - Emus, below middle
1989 reissue - Pye, below left
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
Every Grain of Sand
also on: Hard Rain Vol. Two
Rodney Crowell - The Outsider
Shelter From The Storm
Emmylou duets with Rodney
1996, previously unreleased track (also on: Dylan Country)
When I Paint My Masterpiece
Still, Harris remained in New York, traveling the Greenwich Village club circuit before becoming a regular at Gerdes Folk City, where she struck up friendships with fellow folkies Jerry Jeff Walker, David Bromberg, and Paul Siebel. After marrying songwriter Tom Slocum in 1969, she recorded her debut LP, 1970's Gliding Bird.
For her second LP, 1976's Elite Hotel, Harris established a new backing unit, the Hot Band, which featured legendary Elvis Presley sidemen James Burton and Glen D. Hardin as well as a young songwriter named Rodney Crowell on backup vocals and rhythm guitar. The resulting album proved to be a smash, with covers of Buck Owens' "Together Again" and the Patsy Cline perennial "Sweet Dreams" both topping the charts. After her sterling work with Gram Parsons, she was recruited to sing harmony with Dylan on the Desire album, which proved a fortuitous break in her own career. Before beginning sessions for her third effort, 1977's Luxury Liner, Harris guested on Bob Dylan's Desire and appeared in Martin Scorsese's documentary of the Band's legendary final performance, The Last Waltz.
Olof Björner once wrote: Columbia's "Nice Price" reissue of Desire reveals a few seconds of track not heart on the original. At the end of the cassette version of "Oh Sister" you can hear Emmy Lou Harris say "I fucked it up." Then Dylan says "Where?" Emmylou responds "In the verse." On the disc you can only hear "I fucked it ..." The entire conversation is being faded out as it goes along.
The version of Hurricane with Harris on the Dylan album Odds & Ends (Sick Cat 006,  Matrix: SICKCAT 006 POCD) is from the session with Emmylou Harris, the original version with libelous lyrics. She did not come back for the revised version (24 October 1975) released on Desire (1976).