There are some people who become type specimens. They’re the folks who define the characteristics of the category of folks to whom they belong. Guy Clark was — or rather, given what remains — continues to be the type specimen of the singer-songwriter.
Charles Pierce has already written his remembrance of this artist, who died today of what sounds like complications of a hard-lived, powerfully felt life:
He was a craftsman in all the best senses of the word–in the way he created his songs, and in the way he told his stories, and in the places the music took you…
That’s exactly right. And yeah, go read the rest, and listen to Charlie’s picks of the Guy Clark songs that resonate for him.
For me? Well, the first number I recall was his biggest mainstream hit, “L. A. Freeway” — which holds up OK, but isn’t what drew me back to Clark when I started listening to him with intent a few years ago. This is the one that got me started, at a time (as I face again this year, dammit) when too many people that mattered in my life were dying on me:
This one got me next, and still does:*
And this is the one I think of on the day Guy Clark left us; he’s taken his place in the room he’s singing us into:
All of which is to say that Clark couldn’t have a good time. He loved a party** — just ask him:
The list goes on. The Hon. Pierce has it right: Clark was a meticulous song writer and a brilliant one (the two modifiers don’t describe the same quality). Dive in anywhere, and the worst you’ll get is fine fun. At his best….
Dammit — it’s been a crap year for musicians here in these United States.
I’ll leave you with one more favorite, one that captures the heart of what I love most about Clark — the way his music inhabits a story and vice versa:
Rest in peace, Guy Clark.
*And here’s a lagniappe. Check out this tune, the one Clark sends us to in an homage and something of a statement — a recognition of the league in which Guy himself could play.
**In the old days, when it was Clark and Townes Van Zandt and some more bad boys and girls I don’t think I could have come close to keeping up, had I had the amazing fortune to be in the right bar at the right time. But that’s another story. If you want to read up on Mr. Clark — this is a fine and recent profile.