Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, 12:15 p.m.
He built his own guitars but wrote about building a boat. He was a carpenter, a man fond of using his hands but never for typing. He wrote lyrics on graph paper.
It could be that a man must be skilled in such arts in order to be truly creative. It might be it is a prerequisite of great writing. If so, I sigh, but many fields of expertise must be brought to bear. In my low moments, I worry that I do not have enough of them, but more to life cannot be made from more than one has lived.
Guy Clark died at 74. I’ll feel fortunate if I make it that far.
He was a craftsman in whatever he did, be it functional or dys. Dis or dat. His songs touched the soul. When I heard he died, nothing could I do except pick up my guitar, strum it slowly and with feeling, and play what I could remember of “L.A. Freeway,” “Homegrown Tomatoes,” “Pancho and Lefty,” and “Baton Rouge.”
I think I got all of “L.A. Freeway” right. I hadn’t played it in a while, but it was one of the first songs I learned how to play, back when I had to squint at chords above the words and didn’t think I’d ever learn to figure them out by ear.
Pack up all your dishes / Make note of all good wishes / Say goodbye to the landlord for me / Sons of bitches always bore me …
I think they did him. In person, he was independent. He played what he wanted to play and, if you’d let him be, he’d charm your soul and probably get around to what you wanted to hear. Don’t push him, though. He’d growl a little. I wouldn’t have wanted to cross him. Fortunately, we never spoke. Communication was one way. His way.
I don’t mourn when an old man dies. He’s mainly run his course. What I feel is the loss of knowing no more of those songs are coming.
My new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a story of politics, corruption, drugs, mistakes of young and old and crime.
Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that began in songs I wrote.
Crazy of Natural Causes is set in the hills of Kentucky. Chance Benford is a football coach who has to reinvent himself in the aftermath of disaster. It’s a fable of coping with the absurdity of life.
The Intangibles is a story of the South, high school football, civil rights and desegregation, set mostly in the late 1960s.
The Audacity of Dope is the story of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking singer-songwriter who accidentally becomes a national hero and is thus forced to act like one.