“Live Forever” Book on Billy Joe Shaver’s Life & Songs On The Way

photo: Jim McGuire

An oral history on the life of songwriting legend Billy Joe Shaver is on the way. Called Live Forever: The Songwriting Legacy of Billy Joe Shaver, it will be about Shaver’s life and songs told through his peers, friends, and disciples. Composed by Courtney S. Lennon, the book will feature contributions from Ray Wylie Hubbard, Dale Watson, James McMurtry, Scott H. Biram, Dallas Moore, and Jessi Colter (who’s as close as you can get to Waylon’s perspective), as well as other artists to be announced soon.

“‘Honky Tonk Heroes’ broke new ground,” Jessi Colter says about the landmark Waylon Jennings record that featured all Billy Joe Shaver songs but one. “[The album’s] great American music and put Billy Joe on the map. I loved it immediately when the album was done. The songs are great, Texas primitive, genuine. ‘Honky Tonk Heroes’ became a remarkable milestone and is to this day, music about the working man, the man who hasn’t had it easy and has had to scrap for a living. Waylon loved doing those songs.

Author Courtney S. Lennon is related to legendary songwriter Stephen Foster, and has been a strong voice in the roots community via her website TurnstyledJunkpiled, or TJ Music Magazine. A native of Buffalo, NY, she graduated from The University at Buffalo with a B.A. in Philosophy and began her writing career at the Arts Desk of The University at Buffalo Spectrum.

“Billy Joe is like a college professor,” says Dale Watson, who once wrote a song about Shaver’s notorious run-in with the law after shooting a man in self-defense (the man turned out fine). “What he does and how he does it is a lost trade, and it needs to be there to let people know how to write a damn song. My favorite song of his is probably ‘Live Forever.’ It’s got a spiritual tone to it like Billy always has, a songwriter’s lament, a song that every good ‘ol boy can identify with.”

Live Forever: The Songwriting Legacy of Billy Joe Shaver is still in the works, so don’t get too jumpy waiting for a copy. Preliminary estimates have it showing up via the Texas A&M University Press John and Robin Dickson Series in Texas Music sometime in 2020. Meanwhile you can subscribe to stay in touch about the project, or follow on Facebook.