Thursday, May 19, 2016

Guy Clark, a great songwriter who got much respect but not much money, dies at 74

Guy Clark (Beth Gwinn/Redferns via Getty Images)
Guy Clark, who kept drawing on his West Texas upbringing as he became one of Nashville's most respected songwriters, died Tuesday in the Tennessee city after a long illness. He was 74.

"He never got rich, but earned the admiration of countless songwriters, including Bob Dylan," Ian Crouch writes for The New Yorker. "It’s tough to pin down precisely what made his songs so distinctive. He wasn’t a poet genius like Townes Van Zandt, or a blazing, righteous performer like Steve Earle. He never enjoyed wide popularity like Willie Nelson. Mostly his songs were strong and steady, projecting a deep, indisputable, and ultimately persuasive confidence and sense of self."

Clark, a lawyer's son who preferred to be called a poet, may have been best known for "L.A. Freeway," recorded in 1973 by his friend Jerry Jeff Walker; "Heartbroke," which was a No. 1 hit for Ricky Skaggs in 1982; and "Desperados Waitin' for a Train," from his first album, "Old No. 1," in 1975. That was "perhaps his most vivid song," Tamara Sorvino writes for The Oxford American. Her biography of Clark is due out in October.

"His songwriting evinced a keen eye not just for narrative detail but also an unerring ear for spoken vernacular and a wry, existentialist bent akin to that of Kris Kristofferson or John Prine," Bill Friskics-Warren writes for The New York Times. "A laconic though riveting storyteller, Mr. Clark was adept at getting at the heart of an experience or event."

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