In September, 1995, author Joyce Maynard published her new novel, Where Love Goes, with something extra: a CD. The hardcover first edition of the book came with a 19-track mix CD of Maynard’s favorite songs from the albums and artists she’d listened to and been inspired by as she wrote the book.
Seeing as my wife was a big fan of Joyce Maynard, I purchased a copy as a Christmas present for her. In January, I made a cassette tape copy of the CD, editing out the two or three songs that were too “Country” for my wife’s tastes, and that collection got pretty regular airplay around the house and in the car right on through the whole rest of the year.
One song in particular became a favorite of mine: “Baby Took A Limo To Memphis.”
The song was by Guy Clark.
In October, 1997, Acoustic Guitar magazine had a feature article about Guy Clark that included a rave review of his newest CD: Keepers – A Live Recording. Writer John Herndon starts the article by saying: “Guy Clark is one of the very few songwriters for whom the term poet should be reserved.” He ends the article like this: “For Guy Clark, the simple folk song is an art form every bit as moving and significant as any of the great works of Western civilization.”
Keepers was the very next CD I purchased. It was, and is, an album full of wondrous songs.
On March 28, 2003, my friend, Jim, and I went into Boston for a concert at the Orpheum Theatre. It was billed as “An Evening with Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Guy Clark and Joe Ely.” It consisted of over two hours of the four singer/songwriter/guitarists sitting in a row of chairs across the stage, taking turns singing songs and spinning stories. Spellbinding, to say the least. But all throughout the show, Lyle, John and Joe paid their respects to the man who sat at the right hand end of the row: Guy Clark.
One of the songs Guy Clark played that night was called “Stuff That Works” and I was so taken buy it, that the next day I was on the computer, searching out what CD of his it was on. Before too long Dublin Blues (1995) was spinning in my player, amazing my ears and I was adding “Stuff That Works” to my performing repertoire.
Over the following years, my Guy Clark CD collection continued to grow: Cold Dog Soup (1999); The Dark (2002); The Essential Guy Clark (1997); and on up to his latest: Somedays The Song Writes You (2009). From album to album, track to track, Guy’s songs are never less than great and some are absolutely devastating.
In August, 2009, my wife and I saw Guy Clark, with his dear friend, singer/songwriter/guitarist Verlon Thompson, at that summer’s version of the Newport (RI) Folk Festival.
At first on that Sunday afternoon, it seemed that Guy was not having the best of days. He had great difficulty climbing the short staircase up to the stage and as he stood, awaiting his introduction, he appeared to be in pain. At one point during the show, he even ackowledged his discomfort saying that he was dealing with “an old songwriting injury.”
But for nearly an hour he played his guitar and sang his songs. His words and music and stories filled the tent and long, warm, loving applause rolled up to embrace and support him song after gorgeous song. Among his last numbers, he did “Stuff That Works” and “Dublin Blues.” If, then and there, it had been my time to go, I would have died a very happy man.
At the beginning of that set, Guy Clark spoke the best lines I heard from a performer all weekend. He looked across the packed Fort Stage area and said: “We have come here today to sing you some songs we’ve written. Some we know. We don’t use a set list. We just kind of wing this and, ah, we have no agenda, we have no clue, but we have no fear.”
If you’ve never heard any of the songs of Guy Clark, I recommend the CD Dublin Blues as the best place to start with Cold Dog Soup and Keepers as very close seconds.
Guy Clark was born today, November 6, in the year 1941 in Monihans, Texas.
Happy Birthday, Guy. Thank you for everything. Take care and all the best.