In the hands of Gram Parsons, this Rolling Stones lament sounds even sadder than the original version. His take on the song drips with yokel heartache, as though he had poured his soul into it. You almost feel as though the Stones had taken the song from him; had recast it as a slightly colder ballad with a bit of cheek in the lead vocal.
Gram Parsons was a singular talent; but he did more than sire country-rock. His biggest gift was his ability to locate that high, lonesome whine in even the corniest material; to transform it into something rich, memorable, and indelibly his. “Wild Horses,” which Mick Jagger & Keith Richards wrote, is not a corny song. It is, you could say, a transcendent ode to deep-fried country. But Jagger is a Brit who built his career on a love of American roots music. And, consciously or otherwise, he nearly always sings from a kind of remove, part of which stems from his style, and part of which stems from his origins. Parsons was a Southern boy who heard this Stones song as The Real Thing — as a tribute worthy of tribute. And by giving it his all, he brought it even closer to his roots. He made the song his own.