These years are unfortunately full of heart-breaking music losses. Since our work here is to keep music alive across time and space, I do not systematically talk or write about great songwriters who passed away. I’m sure you can catch the news from another source anyway.
But sometimes it’s just impossible to stay still. Specifically when the artist is Guy Clark. At the age of 74, he died from a long illness on May 17th 2016 in his Nashville home. To speak frankly, I do write about him because he was also one of my personal music heroes.
A lot of critics and music experts can tell you, despite the few airplays of his music, he was a milestone of Nashville songwriting scene. As a member of the Texan Troubadours, as we called them, Guy Clark and his friends (Townes Van Zandt in the very first place) had this way of telling moving stories with a disconcerting simplicity. But his writing was far from simple. He was obsessed with finding the right words and his songs are earthbound pieces of pure magic.
There’s a lot of archives you can hear and watch to know about his life, his work and his philosophy. If you're interested, take my advice and watch the James Szalapski’s documentary called Heartworn Highways. It’s a wonderful work showing the 70’s outlaw country music scene and it will give you an inside look at the Troubadours’ community life. 2016 is the 40th anniversary of the film and you can find a special reissue at Light In The Attic Records. This new edition isn’t cheap but on another hand it’s kind of hard to find a good quality vintage copy. And you’d better have kept your old VHS player. But whatever the way you’ll choose, you definitely should watch this documentary to understand the spirit of Guy Clark’s work.
It may took until 2004 to see him elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, but Guy Clark’s songs engraved by themselves in our heart for quite a long time already. All his records deserve a close hearing, including his last work, My Favorite Picture Of You, a masterpiece which lead to a well-deserved Grammy for best folk album in 2014.
It’s because of artists like Guy Clark I decided I should spread the word and try to highlight good songwriters and musicians. American songwriting is a special form of poetry, full of truth, honesty and hard times. He knew how to depict those things in a most powerful and beautiful possible way.
The man is gone but his work will remain for sure. How could it be different?