A great Texan, Guy Charles Clark, closed his eyes for the last time this morning in Nashville. The tributes and eulogies are pouring in while all his fans and devotees reflect on a 50-year plus collection of songs that resist easy comparison, but generate imagery so potent that little movies enter the ears, run through the brain and rouse the soul…. movies about Texas characters, loves won and lost, and all the rest.
There will never be anyone else like him. Guy has inspired innumerable songwriters, singers and co-writers that jumped into his ring after being branded by “those lyrics”… and the exquisite finger-picked sparse melodies. A very salty list of disciples indeed — Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, Shawn Camp, Verlon Thompson — the list goes on and on.
Make no mistake — Guy Clark lived in Nashville since the early ‘70’s, but his poetry always bubbled up from Texas. Born in Monahans in Ward County, Texas, Guy was a hyper-keen observer of everyday details in West Texas. He noticed the train tracks, the broomweed that grows by the train tracks, the domino parlors, the nuanced expressions of the old men, and the scraps of rusted metal found along the roads.
He went to high school on the “south coast of Texas” and played all the folkie joints in and around Houston. He hung out with Townes Van Zandt and built intricate wooden musical instruments in California factories, and forever in his workshop. He painted and had a supernatural understanding of the relationship between music, lyrics and visual art. It’s a safe bet that he took a long look at the great Irish poets such as William Butler Yeats and James Joyce… not to mention the beat poets, the Greenwich Village folk movement in the early ’60’s. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Jerry Jeff Walker were frequent co-conspirators and drinking partners. New Yorkers transformed into Texas cowboys. Guy needed no such transformation.
He will join his adored Susanna in a peaceful place that might look like Austin in the early ‘70’s. From all of us at Icehouse Music, we pray God his spirited soul to keep.
May 17, 2016