Guy Clark – An Appreciation

Most folks that play an instrument have a go-to song or melody they play when sitting down at a new piano or pick up a friend’s guitar for the first time. One, of a handful of songs I return to, is Guy Clark’s LA Freeway. Like most country songs, the chords are pretty simple (or at least the way I play it). A / D / A / E / repeat. I woke up on this gloomy LA morning to news that Guy Clark had died. I can’t help but feel sad… not because he is gone… he was a crazy, old son-of-a-bitch and lived up to the title… but because music like his is fading. Because honesty in music is giving way to a good hook and a catchy beat. Not that you can’t have both, but priorities have definitely shifted. Guy Clark played ‘outlaw country’, along with folks like Jerry Jeff Walker and Townes Van Zandt. In fact, the legend of Townes wouldn’t be complete without a couple of chapters on his friend and brother, Guy.

Guy Clark and Susanna

Like Merle before him, Guy had been sick for some time. He had lost Susanna, his wife of 40 years, back in 2012 and dedicated his 2013 album, My Favorite Picture of You, to her. Last year, he collapsed in a theater and was driven to a hospital in Austin, just minutes before he was to appear on stage to be inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame… now he is gone… but it brings relief to know that he has left this world after a life well lived and, fortunately for us, well told… hopefully he, Townes and Susanna are all having a laugh somewhere out there in the cosmos, picking songs on the guitar and throwing back a few… RIP friend.

The album version of “She Aint Goin Nowhere” is probably as good as it gets (and is on YouTube, if interested), but there is something about hearing songs like these sung live, by the people who wrote ’em, that just seems right. If you have the time, I encourage any fan of Dylan, Willie, Cohen, or Townes to check out “Old No. 1” and songs like “LA Freeway,” “She Ain’t Goin Nowhere,” “Desperadoes Waiting for the Train” and others. Exceptional stuff.