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Guy Clark, Legendary Nashville Crooner and Outlaw Country Originator, Dies at 74

by Philip Trapp   May 19, 2016 11:11 AM EDT

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Revered Nashville-by-way-of-Texas country singer, Guy Clark, died on Tuesday at 74. The Grammy Award-winning Western troubadour is best remembered for his oft-covered '70s hits, "Desperados Waiting for a Train" and "L.A. Freeway"

Having released over 20 albums in his lifetime, he is frequently credited with the popularization of the outlaw country genre, along with guitar-slinging contemporaries like Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Townes Van Zandt.

Born in Texas, Clark relocated to Nashville in order to achieve his singing and songwriting success. Recalling his arduous early years to Texas Monthly, the musician reminisced of the times he and fellow songster Van Zandt resorted to shoplifting for sustenance:

"When I came here, I had a publishing deal and a draw, something like fifty dollars a week, not enough to live on. Townes and I were still stealing mayonnaise from the mini-mart to survive."

Clark's reputation as a songwriter ballooned in the late 1970s and early '80s, as his original songs were performed and recorded by a slew of popular hit-makers. Bluegrass pioneer Ricky Skaggs made a No. 1 hit of the artist's "Heartbroke" in 1982; singer Vince Gill landed in the Top 10 with his rendition of Clark's "Oklahoma Borderline" in 1985.

Plagued with health problems later in life, the singer received treatment for lymphoma in addition to cataract surgery and knee replacement. Speaking to Lonestar Music upon completion of chemotherapy, Clark told interviewer James McMurtry how he lost his taste for alcohol following the medical procedure:

"I quit drinking five, six, seven years ago. I had lymphoma, so I had about four months of chemotherapy, and I couldn't wait to get through with that so I could sit down and have a nice glass of wine or whatever, tequila. But then I tried it, and it tasted like sh*t! I had to spit it out."

Clark's final studio album was 2013's My Favorite Picture of You, his 14th original full-length release. The album earned the musician a Grammy Award for Best Folk Album the following year.

Below, listen to his aforementioned signature tune, "Desperados Waiting for the Train," from his influential 1975 debut album, Old No. 1.

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