Guy Clark, one of country music’s most prolific songwriters, passed away at the age of 74 on May 17. Clark was a musician and singer but was known more for his songs that were recorded by other singers, including Johnny Cash. Guy Clark was born in Monahans, TX and was remembered in the Houston Chronicle by country music singer Lyle Lovett and singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell. Lovett talked to the Houston Chronicle in 2012 about how Clark’s home expressed his love of music and art, being filled with art and guitars. Crowell told the Chronicle that Clark was “the best self-editor I’ve ever come across.”
The Chronicle reported that Clark died Tuesday morning at his Nashville home after a long illness. Other news reports mentioned that Clark had been in declining health for years and had also battled cancer. Despite his poor health, Clark released his fourteenth and last studio album, My Favorite Picture of You, in 2013, for which he won a Grammy. The album had a song with the same title that Clark wrote for his wife Susanna who died in 2012 and referred to a Polaroid snapshot of her that Clark kept pinned to his wall. Clark’s first album, Old No. 1, was released in 1975.
Photos: Iconic songwriter Guy Clark through the years https://t.co/ldxNPixjND— Houston Chronicle (@HoustonChron) May 18, 2016
Clark moved from West Texas to Houston in the 1960s where he met Townes Van Zandt and Micky Newbury. Clark and his wife Susanna who was a painter and songwriter, moved to Los Angeles by 1970, where Clark hoped to find a career in songwriting, but ended up working in a factory. Guy and Susanna didn’t stay long in Los Angeles, by 1972 they had moved to Nashville, and a song on his first album that was released in 1975 was a song about leaving Los Angeles – “L. A. Freeway.” Jerry Jeff Walker was the first big Nashville artist that recorded Guy Clark’s “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train” in 1973, and the Highwaymen recorded the same song again in the 1980s.
Clark’s songs have been recorded by a slew of other country artists besides Jerry Jeff Walker since then, including “The Last Gunfighter Ballad” by Johnny Cash. “She’s Crazy for Leavin'” was recorded and co-written by Rodney Crowell, and Crowell also was the first to record “Heartbroke,” but Ricky Skaggs made it a hit. George Strait also recorded “Heartbroke” on Strait From the Heart. Steve Wariner co-wrote with Clark and recorded “Baby I’m Yours,” which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in 1988. Other chart-topping hits were “The Carpenter,” recorded by John Conlee, “Fair Shake,” recorded and co-written by country duo Foster & Lloyd, “Oklahoma Borderline,” also co-written and recorded by Vince Gill, and Pirates of the Mississippi recorded “Too Much,” a song that was co-written by Guy Clark and Lee Roy Parnell.
My effort to to explain why the loss of songwriter Guy Clark was so significant. https://t.co/csADaNnumN— Saving Country Music (@KyleCoroneos) May 18, 2016
A story by RollingStone explained the reason Clark wrote his song “My Favorite Picture of You.” Someone took a Polaroid of Clark’s wife Susanna while she was standing outside complaining about her husband and Van Zandt stumbling around drunk, something that apparently happened a lot at the couple’s home. The couple’s home was considered a “social hub” in Nashville in the 1970s. Clark said his wife looked pretty, yet peeved, in the photo and a verse from the song said it all.
“A curse on your lips, but all I can see is beautiful.”
Guy Clark was considered one of the greatest Texas songwriters along the lines of his friend Townes Van Zandt and Willie Nelson. Clark’s bluesy guitar sound was also definitely a major influence in country music, and he will be missed by the country music world. Lyle Lovett had it right in his 2012 interview with the Houston Chronicle.
“Guy’s a master at expressing feeling in songs.”
Farewell to a true “Texas Troubadour.”
[Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images]