The famed singer-songwriter was 74 when he passed away Tuesday.
Guy Clark, the widely respected country music icon who penned tunes for artists as diverse as Johnny Cash, Jerry Jeff Walker, Emmylou Harris, George Strait, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Ricky Skaggs, passed away Tuesday at his Nashville home after a lengthy illness. The celebrated Texas native, who began his career on the Houston folk music circuit in the 1960s, was 74.
Among Clark’s most famous compositions: “Desperados Waiting for a Train” (recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker in 1973, Slim Pickens in 1981, and The Highwaymen in 1985), “L.A. Freeway,” “The Last Gunfighter Ballad,” “Heartbroke,” and “She’s Crazy For Leavin’.” Often hailed as a “songwriter’s songwriter,” he was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004, and received the prestigious Poets Award from the Academy of Country Music in 2013.
Clark also received a unique tribute from friends and collaborators in 2012: This One’s for Him, a double-CD of songs he had written or co-written, featured performances by such notables as Willie Nelson, Rosanne Cash, Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Emmylou Harris, and John Prine.
During a career that spanned five decades, Clark recorded several albums as a performer, three of which — Old Friends, Keepers, and Workbench Songs — were Grammy Award finalists. My Favorite Picture of You, released in 2014, received a Grammy for best folk album. In 2005, Clark and fellow songwriter Darrell Scott gave live performances of their songs (including Clark’s “Homeless” and “She Ain’t Going Nowhere”) for the Nashville Ballet’s world premiere of Postcards from the Boys, choreographer Sarah Slipper’s acclaimed program of six dances based on their music.
In his eloquent online tribute posted Tuesday, Houston Chronicle writer Andrew Dansby hailed Clark as “one of the great Texas songwriters of the 20th century,” rivaled only by Willie Nelson and Townes Van Zandt. Clark, Dansby wrote, was “an artist who took unassuming characters and mundane happenings and projected them into narratives with epic scope. Crowds came to see his rare gifts as a storyteller, a tall performer of gravity and nuance who commanded silence. Off the stage, this respected luthier retreated to his workbench in Nashville and built beautiful flamenco-style guitars. The image of Clark, sleeves rolled, working with wood or words, earned him a reputation as a craftsman, a word that became the title of one of his recordings. Workbench Songs was another. But Clark’s methodical process for creating things obscured a bright creative fire. He was a craftsman like other craftsmen — Faulkner, Twain, Picasso — which is to say he was an artist first. Clark's frame of choice wasn't a book cover or a canvas, but rather the four-minute folk song. Within it he built worlds.”
Rolling Stone has posted a guide to Guy Clark’s “12 Essential Songs” here. And this is a video of his appearance with Lyle Lovett on a 2008 episode of Austin City Limits.