[NEW YORK] Country legend Guy Clark, whose vivid tales of lonesome characters and the rough Texas landscape inspired generations of songwriters, died Tuesday. He was 74.
Clark, who was born in the scrappy western Texas town of Monahans and went to become a major songwriter in Nashville, died at his home in the Texas capital Austin, his management said.
The singer, who was a heavy smoker, had been in poor health for several years and battled cancer.
Clark grew up in his grandmother's 13-room hotel in Monahans as a cast of colorful visitors from aspiring oilmen to pilots returning from World War II would pass through.
One figure from his childhood, whom he later described as his grandmother's boyfriend, became the basis for his best-known song, "Desperados Waiting for a Train".
"He's a drifter, and a driller of oil wells / And an old-school man of the world," Clark sang, describing a man who would give him pocket-money to entertain the girls.
Clark also captured post-war Texas - barren but full of promise for visitors - on "Texas - 1947" and took his descriptive pen to the West Coast on "LA Freeway".
Along with Willie Nelson, he became one of the leading artists in the 1970s movement known as progressive country which moved away from the slick studio sound of Nashville and turned more to storytelling in the fashion of folk giant Bob Dylan, who has spoken admiringly of Clark.
While Clark released fewer hits that topped the charts, his skills as a songwriter proved to be a model for later artists at the forefront of the alternative country scene such as Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris.
Clark became a close collaborator and friend of country icon Townes Van Zandt, who died in 1997 after long struggles with addiction.
Clark grew up as much on poetry as country music. Asked in an interview on his advice to country songwriters, he advised them to read the Welsh literary great Dylan Thomas.
"Go out to wherever there are good writers and hang out with good writers. Write every day. Listen to and read good poetry," he told the site Awaiting The Flood in 2011.
Clark was married to a fellow songwriter, Susanna Clark, who died in 2012 from lung cancer.