Outlaw country star Billy Joe Shaver dies at 81
Outlaw country singer/songwriter Billy Joe Shaver died in Waco, Texas, on Wednesday after suffering a massive stroke. A representative for Shaver confirmed the news to EW.
Shaver, born in Corsicana, Texas, in 1939, found success as a performer but was more famously known for writing some of the biggest hits performed by superstars like Waylon Jennings, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Kris Kristofferson.
Shaver released his debut album Old Five and Dimers Like Me (produced by Kristofferson) in 1973 but his big break would come by way of Waylon Jennings. His country music debut that same year, Honky Tonk Heroes, featured 10 out of 11 songs that were written or co-written by Shaver. One of those songs was "You Asked Me To," which would become a hit once again in 1975 when Presley released his cover on his 1975 album Promised Land.
Shaver released more than 20 albums throughout his career, but it wouldn't be until 2007 that he was nominated for a Grammy Award in recognition of his 2007 album Everybody's Brother. It would be another seven years before he would make his debut on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart with Long in the Tooth from Lighting Records.
Willie Nelson, who collaborated with Shaver often, told Texas Monthly in 2003, “Billy Joe is definitely the best writer in Texas." Cash shared a similar sentiment, declaring the late outlaw singer was "my favorite songwriter," according to multiple reports.
Shaver didn't limit himself to music, he caught the acting bug appearing in Hollywood films including the 1997 drama The Apostle playing opposite Robert Duvall. Duvall honored his friend by singing his song "Live Forever"(co-written by his son Eddy Shaver) in 2009's Crazy Heart. He also landed speaking roles in Secondhand Lions and The Wendell Baker Story, both costarring Duvall.
Though Shaver celebrated a fruitful career, he suffered multiple tragedies in his life. He collaborated with his only child, Eddy on several critically acclaimed albums before his untimely death on Dec. 31, 2000, from an accidental heroin overdose. He was 38. A year prior, he lost his wife Brenda and his mother Victory to cancer. Shaver himself suffered a massive and nearly fatal heart attack while on stage in 2001. After a quadruple heart bypass, he covered and continued making music and touring.
While reflecting on his career, the elder Shaver shared his feelings about all the legends who covered his songs throughout the years.
“Instead of getting CMA Awards, that means a whole lot more to me," he told Chron.com. "When you write songs, and you write good songs, people will always remember you. Words will always outlive us. And if your name is attached to those words, you’re gonna live forever.”