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Guy Clark, Grammy-winning country singer-songwriter, dead at 74

Guy Clark used his west Texas upbringing as his musical inspiration for scenes and characters in his songs.

Associated Press

Guy Clark used his west Texas upbringing as his musical inspiration for scenes and characters in his songs.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Grammy-winning country singer-songwriter Guy Clark, who wrote hits like L.A. Freeway and Desperados Waiting for a Train, has died. He was 74.

Clark died Tuesday at his home in Nashville, according to his manager, Keith Case. He'd been in poor health, although Case didn't give an official cause of death.

A native of Monahans, Texas, Clark befriended fellow songwriter Townes Van Zandt and Mickey Newbury. Together with his painter-songwriter wife, Susanna, Clark's home in Nashville became a gathering place for songwriters like Rodney Crowell and Steve Earle. He wrote songs for Johnny Cash, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Jeff Walker, Bobby Bare, Vince Gill and John Conlee.

Born in 1941, Clark's upbringing in west Texas inspired the scenes and characters for many of his songs, including Desperados, based on an oil well digger who once stayed at his grandmother's shotgun hotel. Most of the first songs he learned to sing and play were in Spanish.

He moved to Houston in the 1960s, where he met Van Zandt and several other folk songwriters and played in coffee shops and bars. He married his first wife, Susan Spaw, and they had a son, Travis, in 1966. After his split with Susan, he met painter Susanna Talley and they moved to Los Angeles to pursue his music career.

His dissatisfaction with the city's hectic lifestyle was the basis of his song L.A. Freeway, which was recorded by Walker on his debut album. He and Susanna moved to Nashville in 1971. His success as a songwriter led to a recording contract with RCA, and he released his first album, Old No. 1, in 1975. The album included songs like She Ain't Going Nowhere and Texas 1947, which Cash also recorded.

"The only songs I have gotten cut were the ones I wrote for myself to sing," Clark said in an interview with the Associated Press in 2013. "And I didn't even think about the radio. Or think about other artists doing them. So I just quit wasting my time thinking about it. Because the best work always comes from writing for yourself and writing stuff you know about, rather than, 'What would George Jones like?' or 'What would George Strait like?'"

He is survived by his son Travis and daughter-in-law Krista McMurtry Clark; grandchildren Dylan and Ellie Clark; sisters Caroline Clark Dugan and Jan Clark. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Guy Clark, Grammy-winning country singer-songwriter, dead at 74 05/17/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 1:04am]
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