May 17, 2016: Singer-Songwriter Guy Clark Dies

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Guy Clark (pic-Senor McGuire)

Photo: Senor McGuire via Guy Clark Facebook page

Texas-born/Nashville-based country-folk singer and songwriter Guy Clark died May 17, 2016, in Nashville, after a lengthy battle with lymphoma. He was 74. The Grammy winning artist was a key figure in the progressive country and outlaw movements of the 1970s and a respected eminence grise in the current Americana music scene. His songs were covered by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Ricky Skaggs (who had a #1 country hit with “Heartbroke”) and Steve Wariner (the #1 country hit “Baby I’m Yours”), among many others.

Clark released 14 studio albums and a number of live recordings on major labels Warner Bros., RCA and Asylum and indies Sugar Hill and Dualtone. He was also an accomplished visual artist and skilled guitar luthier. His song were also recorded by the Highwaymen, Vince Gill, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Lyle Lovett and others.

Many fellow songwriting legends paid tribute to Clark upon his passing.

John Prine: As great a writer as he was – if he had never written a word – he would still have been Guy Clark and I would have wanted to be friends with him…..

Related: Prine passed in 2020

John Hiatt: We lost one of the greatest singer songwriters America has ever known. His songs will continue to be a part of every generation to come.

Ricky Skaggs: Guy was one of the greatest Texas singer/songwriters to ever come out of that state. His song “Heartbroke” was one of my biggest hits and still one of my most requested songs. I loved Guy’s heart, his humor and his country wisdom.

Lyle Lovett: The world is a better place because he lived.

Clark was born in Monahans, Tex., on November 6, 1941. He began to find prominence as part of a seminal Texas singer-songwriter scene in Houston in the late 1960s that included Mickey Newbury and his close friend and later frequent touring partner Townes Van Zandt. Recordings of his songs “L.A. Freeway” (by Jerry Jeff Walker) and “Desperados Waiting For a Train” (by Tom Rush) helped establish his name. Clark and soon-to-be second wife Susanna – also a painter and songwriter – moved to Nashville in 1971, and their home served as a salon for the city’s songwriter scene for decades.

Nashville music critic Robert K. Oermann hailed Clark in his liner notes to the artist’s 1995 Craftsman collection as “The patron saint of an entire generation of bohemian pickers, Guy Clark has become an emblem of artistic integrity, quiet dignity and simple truth.”

Clark’s songs were marked by lyrical concision, careful craftsmanship, emotional weight and a vivid sense of time and place. He served as a mentor to a number of younger songwriters who went on to make their mark, most notably Rodney Crowell and Steve Earle (who also played bass behind Clark for a spell). He was also known in social circles for his prodigious capacity for consuming inebriants and continuing to function.

A documentary on Clark, Without Getting Killed or Caught, was released in 2021.

A biography of Clark by author Tamara Saviano, Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark, was published in 2016. It’s available here.

Related: Musicians we lost in 2016

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