Legendary Country Music Songwriter Guy Clark Has Passed Away
Like a great sage that only speaks his wisdom once every few years, when Guy Clark played a song or released an album, you stopped down, and you listened. Like the tone of Willie Nelson’s guitar or Johnny Cash’s voice, a Guy Clark song has become an irreplaceable institution of American music. Even if you’re only familiar with his songs though the performances of others, or songs by others that he influenced, Guy Clark’s handiwork is embedded in the very ethos of what we know as songwriting in American music today, even if that influence is imperceptible to the average listener.
If you need any more evidence of the influence of Guy Clark, just appreciate he’s the only one that has the legitimate ability to claim himself the honorary fifth Highwayman, and that he was a primary influence on one of his best friends, Townes Van Zandt.
Legendary country music songwriter Guy Clark passed away early Tuesday morning (5-17) at the ago of 74. Born in Monahans, Texas on Nov. 6, 1941, he went on to become one of the most revered songwriters in the history of country music and beyond. He released a total of 14 studio albums, including for major labels RCA and Warner, as well as Sugar Hill and Dualtone, and though he never saw significant commercial success in his solo career, his songs went on to become some of the most signature tunes for other performers.
Along with recording his own music, Clark wrote songs for Johnny Cash, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, The Highwaymen, Jerry Jeff Walker, David Allan Coe, and even current stars like Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney. Ricky Skaggs had a #1 hit with the Guy Clark song “Heartbroke.” Steve Wariner had a #1 hit with the Guy Clark song “Baby I’m Yours.” He co-wrote “She’s Crazy for Leavin'” with Rodney Crowell, which also became a #1 hit. And Guy’s “Desperados Waiting On A Train” was one of the marquee songs for the country music supergroup The Highwaymen.
Guy Clark started his career in the late 1960’s in Houston, TX before moving out to the West Coast and spending time in San Francisco and Los Angeles, trying to build a career as a folk singer. This time in his career can be heard in early songs like “L.A. Freeway,” which was recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker, and helped put Guy Clark on the musical map. He signed a publishing deal and moved to Nashville in 1971, and that is when his songwriting career began in earnest. He lived in a small house in east Nashville, where fellow Texan Townes Van Zandt would visit often and write songs.
Guy won the Grammy Award for Best Folk Album for My Favorite Picture Of You in 2014. A tribute record to guy won the Americana Music Awards for Best Album in 2011. His appearance in the Outlaw documentary Heartworn Highways made him a legend with a new generation. Biographer, documentarian, and producer Tamara Saviano has been working on a book and film on the life of Guy Clark called Without Getting Killed or Caught, which she was hoping to release to coincide with Guy Clark’s 75th birthday in November.
Guy Clark had been suffering from numerous health ailments recently, and had been reported to be living in a nursing home facility, but was in “stable” condition. In June 2015, he was hospitalized right before he was scheduled to appear at an Austin City Limits event being held in his behalf. Clark had a bad reaction to medication he was prescribed after a recent surgical procedure, and missed the ACL Hall of Fame induction. The induction ceremony continued on in Clark’s absence, and Lyle Lovett accepted the honor on Clark’s behalf.
Guy Clark is regularly listed at the very top of lists of country music’s greatest songwriters, and has to be considered a candidate for posthumous induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame as a songwriter in the future.
Guy was married to fellow songwriter and artist Susanna Clark since 1972. Susanna passed away from Cancer in 2012. Guy Clark is survived by his son, Travis.
May 17, 2016 @ 7:51 am
This fucking year. Ugh.
May 17, 2016 @ 11:01 am
There is a relevant subreddit to this, Reddit.com/r/Fuck2016
May 17, 2016 @ 8:01 am
I’m scared for everyone this year. It’s nuts
May 17, 2016 @ 4:14 pm
If Willie dies i’ll freaking lose it.
May 17, 2016 @ 5:34 pm
So… Merle was hell-bent on touring extensively at his age, and now he is gone.
I made a bee-line to look at Willie’s tour routing, and he has I think 4 scheduled breaks of 3-4 weeks each, so maybe he will be ok. Let’s hope he does not fill in those dates!
I’m so worried about Dolly’s massive tour wearing her out because she is just not accustomed to it.
May 17, 2016 @ 8:19 am
Very sorry to hear this. I can’t believe we’ve already lost another legend.
Rest in peace, Guy.
May 17, 2016 @ 8:24 am
one of the greats. a true song craftsman and an artist. one of a kind. RIP GUY>
May 17, 2016 @ 8:34 am
Sad news to hear this morning. ” Dublin Blues ” will always be one of my favorite songs. Grateful for the influence he’s had on so many of the Texas artists I’ve come to love.
May 17, 2016 @ 10:09 am
Yeah… “Stuff That Works” gets me every time, too… wish I could write like what he threw away…
May 17, 2016 @ 8:47 am
RIP Guy. 🙁
May 17, 2016 @ 9:01 am
I saw Guy Clark once. He was opening for Nanci Griffith at the Birchmere and it was in the late 90s. She was touring on her Other Voices Too album, which included a version of Desperados Waiting on a Train (first time I’d ever heard the song). Guy and a few other singer-songwriter greats (Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Jeff and some others) sang with her on that version, too. At one point during show, Guy was up there with Nanci and her band and he casually lit up a cigarette. The Birchmere was a no smoking venue even back then. There was some raised eyebrows and some little chuckles, maybe, but nobody said shit, staff included. Probably because it was fucking Guy Clark.
Rest in Peace, Guy.
May 17, 2016 @ 9:02 am
R.I.P to a true legend. Rest easy Guy
May 17, 2016 @ 9:27 am
I had never heard of Guy Clark until I seen the documentary “Be Here to Love Me”. I took a chance and bought “My Favorite Picture of You”. The songs on that album would touch the hardest men deeply. Thank you Mr. Clark for the songs you wrote. May you rest in peace.
May 17, 2016 @ 9:30 am
There’ll never be another quite like Guy
Think I need a mad dog Margarita
May 17, 2016 @ 11:35 am
And how many people (including myself) had to go to the Chili Parlor Bar iwhen visiting Austin just because of that song? I didn’t get a Mad Dog Margarita as they are apparently pretty nasty.
TX Music Jim
May 17, 2016 @ 9:38 am
Sail on maestro! You were a true genius! I’m so thankful we will have your music forever to remind us all of the gift you shared with the world. A terrible year for music in terms of loss of so many legends.
May 17, 2016 @ 9:44 am
This is bad. To me, as bad as Merle.
May 20, 2016 @ 4:23 pm
Worse to me, and I loved Merle.
Cool Lester Smooth
May 17, 2016 @ 9:47 am
Guy Clark, too?!
What is this year?!
May 17, 2016 @ 9:55 am
All I can say is this……………It would have been a terrible waste of my life to have never been exposed to hearing and becoming a Guy Clark fan.
May 17, 2016 @ 4:13 pm
May 17, 2016 @ 9:58 am
I never had the pleasure of seeing Mr.Clark live, something I’ll regret forever. Out of all of his songs “The Guitar” is my favorite… I still get the chills and hang on every word like I did the very first time I heard it.
Guy Clark was, in my opinion, the best storyteller we had. The man could transport you anywhere with his words before you realized it was happening. I just pray that the next generation of greats will begin to show themselves, to keep the legacy alive.
Thanks for the ride, Mr. Clark. Rest in peace.
May 17, 2016 @ 10:58 am
Me too, I wish I had seen him live. Love you Guy Clark. RIP.
May 17, 2016 @ 9:58 am
Well damn it… RIP Mr. Clark. By the way- what did you mean by the fifth highwayman? I’ve never heard that before.
May 17, 2016 @ 3:40 pm
The highwaymen was a super group made up of Johnny cash, Waylong Jennings, willie Nelson, and kris kristoferson. Guy was a pretty funny person and dubbed himself to be the fifth member of the group because he wrote desperadoes waiting on a train which was a huge hit for them. Hope that helps.
May 17, 2016 @ 4:19 pm
Yes, I know who the Highwaymen were, but I didn’t know about Guy. Thanks for telling me.
May 18, 2016 @ 6:50 am
Yeah I figured you probably knew who they where…just wasn’t sure. So, I hope that didn’t come off as condescending!
May 18, 2016 @ 10:21 am
Oh no, you didn’t come off as condescending. Thanks.
May 17, 2016 @ 9:59 am
Lately I always get this type of news from the computer at work. Then I listen to a song. Then I have to try not to cry. RIP.
May 17, 2016 @ 10:05 am
Come on Jack, that son of a bitch is coming.
May 17, 2016 @ 10:18 am
f minor to c
May 17, 2016 @ 10:31 am
With songs that’ll live for as long as America’s around, Guy Clark was maybe the closest to Stephen Foster of all the late 20th century American songwriters. Now that he finally got off of that freeway, I hope he can rest in piece.
May 17, 2016 @ 10:56 am
RIP Guy Clark, such a sad day. You will be loved and missed. <3
Bigfoot is Real (lonesome, on'ry, and mean)
May 17, 2016 @ 11:02 am
I was lucky enough to play the Tucson Folk Festival too many years ago where Guy was a headliner. He might be the most at ease performer I’ve ever seen. Think I’ll have a tomato sandwich for diner tonight with Guy on the stereo.
A note of interest, he was also an accomplished luthier and here’s how he labeled his guitars as a Guy Clark creation… “The last step is to mark each guitar as a Guy Clark original; Clark has a unique way of going about it. He pricks his little finger, smears the blood on his thumb, then presses a bloody thumbprint onto a card. After the thumbprint is dry, Clark signs through it and numbers it. “That label is on the inside of every guitar I’ve built,” he says.” (from Popular Wordworking Magazine)
May 20, 2016 @ 4:27 pm
Yep, and that thumbprint was captured on the cover of The Dark.
May 17, 2016 @ 11:07 am
R.I.P. Mr. Clark.
May 17, 2016 @ 11:34 am
“You can almost taste the dust in your mouth at the end of ‘Out in the Parkin’ Lot'”
I am not sure who said this (paraphrased) quote, but rings true for me. I am thankful a whole new generation of Texas songwriters embraced his legacy.
May 17, 2016 @ 11:37 am
For some reason, that is the only song of his that I don’t like.
May 17, 2016 @ 11:39 am
One of my favorites. This one hurts even more than Merle.
May 17, 2016 @ 11:55 am
“Randall Knife” is probably the most poetic and tear jerking song ever wrote. Rest In Peace Mr. Clark.
May 17, 2016 @ 1:48 pm
Last cd I found on Steve Earle and took home with me was “Toghether” Steve Earle together with Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark at the Bluebird Cafe. Beautiful songs on that cd. Heard that he also wrote “Desperado’s Waiting On A Train” which I learned to know via “Highwaymen”.
Thanks so much for the music and the songs Guy Clark, Rest In Peace
May 17, 2016 @ 2:07 pm
Another irreplaceable artist gone. I will be crying in my beer tonight.
May 17, 2016 @ 2:42 pm
Man, this one hits hard. Without Guy, I don’t think we have what we are seeing now in country music. He had such a major influence on so many artist.
I’m not saying the outlaw movement wouldn’t have happened without Guy, but it was what was happening in Austin that started the Outlaw Movement and Guy was in the middle if not one of the leaders. He will truly be missed, RIP Guy.
“Now he’s just an old man that no one believes
And he says he’s a gunfighter and the last of the breed”
May 17, 2016 @ 2:48 pm
I will miss Guy so much. His songs become part of my life. At one point I lived in Southern California and was visiting a relative, while driving out of town on it rained and the wipers on my truck stopped working. Crowded L.A. freeway with rain, no wipers and my family starts singing LA Freeway. I’ll never forget singing that damn song. We couldn’t wait to get the hell out of SoCal. I’ve lived in my beloved rural South since. I’ve never stopped listening to the great Guy Clark and never will. God bless his son and friends.
May 17, 2016 @ 3:06 pm
An irreplaceable loss, Guy is not only on the Mount Rushmore of Texas songwriters, but on the Rushmore of songwriters, period. I am fortunate enough to have seen him perform once, and got his signature on one of my guitars. I hope he’s raising a toast with Townes and Hank right now, ” Let Him Roll….”
May 19, 2016 @ 2:05 pm
Isn’t that the same mountain? Haha
May 17, 2016 @ 3:43 pm
Fuck the rest of the year….this one was coming but hurts the most. I’m grabbing my flour sack cape and a case.
May 17, 2016 @ 4:11 pm
I don’t know of any words to describe to the enormous losses that the music industry, regardless of genre, has suffered over the last two years, and in such concentrated form just in the first four and a half months of this year alone. And just as is the case with Merle Haggard, Guy Clark is one of the irreplaceable legends in country music–there will never be another like him.
As a side note–among those who covered Guy’s “Desperados Waiting For A Train” was the legendary Western character actor Slim Pickens, who recorded a version in which he read the lyrics with musical backing, a version that Clark himself is on the record as calling “f***ing spine-tingling.”
May 17, 2016 @ 11:01 pm
Did you ever notice that “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is basically “Let Him Roll”–but without all the color and detail that go into a Guy Clark song?
May 18, 2016 @ 7:49 am
I can’t see George Jones singing about “a whore in Dallas”.
May 19, 2016 @ 6:48 pm
Tuesday, Guy Clark passes, then Thursday, bluegrass singer James King passed. I get the difference between Clark and his sound and King and his sound, but both are Country music. And all I can think is that it’s said that folks pass in three’s. And somebody better hide Willie Nelson.
Prayers for both men’s families and friends.
May 24, 2016 @ 6:58 am
A little late but I wanted to say that Guy Clark is one of America’s greatest songwriters ever.