Despite often being mistakenly put in the notorious "27 Club", he was under 2 months shy of his 27th birthday, he never achieved anything like the success of the more famous members of that tragic collection like Jimi Hendrix, Curt Cobain, Jim Morrisson, Amy Winehouse & Janis Joplin.
It could be argued that his influence was as great as those mentioned above, but I'd dispute that given how much Hendrix changed the course of guitar playing and Cobain changed the course of rock music. His influence was huge though. "Let It Bleed" and "Exile On Main Street" may have sounded significantly different without his friendship with Keith Richards.
The Flying Burrito Brothers' aching version of "Wild Horses" perfectly showcases his heartbreaking voice, and I think it is markedly superior to the Stones' version.
Interestingly, it was a rare example of a Jagger/Richards composition being released by someone else before the Rolling Stones. I have heard it suggested that maybe Gram did more than influence the Stones, and that he actually wrote the song. I know not whether that is the case, I do know that I'll take his version over the Stones' every time.
What I would say is that his unrealised potential was greater than that of those other names mentioned. Almost unknown when he died, with tiny record sales, that influence and legend only grew as the 'cosmic american music' he tried to create blossomed over the years. Bands such as Wilco, The Jayhawks, and many others owe him a massive and acknowledged debt.
Would we have been blessed with the career of Emmylou Harris without the start in the industry her work with Gram gave her? I defy anyone not to listen to their version of "Love Hurts" and not be moved.
If only his recreational habits and trust fund induced lack of work ethic hadn't held him back, he could have been as big as The Eagles, who presented as far more polished version of what he offered.
I bow to no-one in my admiration of Gram though. I've got pretty much everything that was recorded,(which too be fair isn't actually that much), and he is one of my all-time favourite musicians. His voice is one of the few that can move me to tears. Just listen to "Hot Burrito #1", (top of the page), "100 Years From Now", from The Bryds' "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo",
or his finest song, "$1000 Wedding", from the posthumously released "Grevious Angel".
I'll leave you with that crushing masterpiece of pain, misery and broken hearts. If it doesn't pull at the heartstrings, then I don't know what to say.
Thanks for the music Gram.