One of my favorites was Guy Clark. Sadly, he died yesterday.
Guy Charles Clark, the gravel-voiced troubadour who crafted a vast catalog of emotionally charged, intricately detailed works that illuminated and expanded the literary possibilities of popular song, died in Nashville Tuesday morning after a long illness."a vodka-fueled sage" - That's one hell of an epitaph.
Born in Monahans, Texas on Nov. 6, 1941, and raised in the Lone Star State, Mr. Clark was a Nashville songwriting fixture for more than 40 years.
His songs were recorded by Johnny Cash, Ricky Skaggs, Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Bobby Bare, Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and legions of others.
“The patron saint of an entire generation of bohemian pickers, Guy Clark has become an emblem of artistic integrity, quiet dignity and simple truth,” wrote Robert K. Oermann in the 1995 liner notes to Clark’s “Craftsman” collection.
“I’d play ‘The Red River Valley,’ and he’d sit in the kitchen and cry,” begins “Desperados Waiting for the Train,” a song about a young boy’s friendship with a grandfatherly old cuss. “Run his fingers through 70 years of living, and wonder, ‘Lord, has every well I’ve drilled run dry.’”
Another of his classics, “That Old Time Feeling,” opened with the lines, “That old time feeling goes sneaking down the hall, like an old grey cat in winter, keepin’ close to the wall.”
Both “Desperados” and “That Old Time Feeling” were featured on Mr. Clark’s debut album in 1975, “Old No. 1..."
Mr. Clark, the son of a lawyer, was raised in dusty west Texas and moved to the Gulf Coast town of Rockport, Texas, at 16.
In the late 1960s, he headed to Houston, where he played Bob Dylan-inspired folk music on a club circuit that included contemporaries Van Zandt and Eric Taylor as well as blues legends Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb.
Mr. Clark spent time in San Francisco and Los Angeles, inspiring later songs “Madonna w/ Child ca. 1969” and “L.A. Freeway...”
Jerry Jeff Walker recorded “L.A. Freeway” for a 1972 album, and “Desperados Waiting for the Train” the following year, and Mr. Clark garnered a reputation for uncommon poetic perception.
By the time “Old No. 1” released, Mr. Clark was a local icon, an arbiter of taste and song sensibility, and a vodka-fueled sage. He maintained each of these reputations throughout the remainder of his life.
He influenced later generations of songwriters, as evidenced by this tribute from Robert Earl Keene.
Guy Clark - RIP, brother...