Texas songwriter Guy Clark dies at 74 after a career of heartfelt music

Reuters News
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Posted: May 17, 2016 12:10 PM

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas-born singer and songwriter Guy Clark, who penned tunes recorded by some of the biggest stars in country music, has died at the age of 74 after a long illness, his family said on Tuesday.

While he never achieved star status and shunned many of the commercial aspects of country music, Clark was revered by contemporaries as one of the finest craftsman of lyrics in the business. He was a story teller who could capture pathos, irony and the depth of human bonds in songs that included "Stuff That Works," "Desperados Waiting for a Train" "L.A. Freeway," and "Instant Coffee Blues."

Clark, who was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004, won the best folk album Grammy Award in 2014.

Born in the oil patch Texas town of Monahans in 1941, Clark joined the Peace Corps in 1963. He later began performing on the folk circuit in Houston, where he lived and ran a guitar repair shop. During that time, he formed lasting friendships with future music greats including Townes Van Zandt and Jerry Jeff Walker, his family said.

He issued his first albums in the 1970s to modest sales. But his songs caught the attention of others, leading to his works eventually being covered by stars including Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, George Strait and Jimmy Buffett.

The Nashville home where Clark and wife Susanna, also a songwriter and artist, lived was a salon for songwriters, performers and roguish characters involved in Nashville music scene with Clark and Van Zandt presiding.

Clark also was a mentor to many aspiring musicians, including Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell.

"Travel safe, old friend," singer-songwriter Roseanne Cash, the daughter of Johnny Cash, wrote on her Twitter feed. "I would not be the songwriter I am if I hadn't sat at your table and learned from a master."

Clark scored a No. 1 single in the early 1980s with his song "Heartbroke" when it was recorded by Ricky Skaggs.

Clark's Grammy-winning album was his last and it took its title, "My Favorite Picture of You," from a photograph of Susanna, who died in 2012, that was taken more than three decades earlier.

"I turned in my chair and it was right there in front of me. The lyrics just poured out because all it boiled down to was describing the picture," he said on his website.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott)