Guy Clark has died and I feel poorer for his loss.
We all have a small band of masters, a tiny bunch who teach us to write, even though few of us will ever do it as well as any of them. Your masters won’t be the same as mine, though we might have some in common, and that’s as it should be since you and I are not the same, but we share enough to be friends. Enough, perhaps to be lovers or brothers or perhaps to just be drunkards singing the same song. What difference does it make as long as two human spirits come together?
I feel poorer for the loss of Guy Clark — as do many others — because he was a kind master, a gentle soul who showed us by decent example how to craft words. Not so much a teacher as a good man with a mean country guitar-picking style and a singular voice.
I am desolate at the loss of Guy Clark in a way that I didn’t feel for any more famous figure in this year of the great culling. I feel his loss in a personal, visceral way not only because I met the man, but also because his music formed the backdrop to the happy phases of my life and I’m grateful to his vast talent for his existence. We too often resort to the commonplace and the platitude, so I’m not going to tell you he wrote the soundtrack to my life, because he didn’t. Everyone from the Clash through Tom Waits and all the way to Paganini wrote the soundtrack of my life, but Guy Clark provided the wonderful, erudite, witty commentary that kept my soul alive.
Guy Clark was like a sort of gentle musical father I could turn to when times got tough.
I learned many things from him. I didn’t learn enough but I learned something. I learned to embrace tragic lovers, I learned that we are the old-timers and I learned that forgiveness heals everything. I could have learned more, but that isn’t Guy’s fault. That’s mine.
I once shook his hand.