Clark never had the massive following and kitchen-table recognition of those two, but his death affects the often unnoticed songwriters’ culture that drives Nashville.
Andrew Dansby of the Houston Chronicle called Clark “a storyteller, a tall performer of gravity and nuance who commanded silence.”
Off the stage, this respected luthier retreated to his workbench in Nashville and built beautiful flamenco-style guitars. The image of Clark, sleeves rolled, working with wood or words, earned him a reputation as a craftsman, a word that became the title of one of his recordings. “Workbench Songs” was another. But Clark’s methodical process for creating things obscured a bright creative fire. He was a craftsman like other craftsmen – Faulkner, Twain, Picasso, which is to say he was an artist first. Clark’s frame of choice wasn’t a book cover or a canvas, but rather the four-minute folk song. Within it he built worlds.
Clark was born in Texas, and he died in Austin. He befriended fellow Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt, with whom he is often associated in songwriting circles. Van Zandt died in 1997.
Clark had reportedly been in poor health for weeks before passing overnight at age 74. His wife died in 2012 after battling lung cancer.
In a post on ABC News, Miranda Lambert chronicled her five favorite songs of all time, and Clark’s Desperados Waiting for a Train topped the list.
“Favorite song of all time,” she said in the report, noting that it made her think of her dad. “He would sing a lot to me as a little girl. That meant a lot to me. He was a singer songwriter so it just seems like I’ve always been hearing him downstairs or sitting around with him at a fire at a party or something with him playing guitar since I was born.”
NonDoc offers this Spotify playlist as a tribute to Guy Clark.