RIP Billy Joe Shaver

Billy Joe Shaver
Billy Joe Shaver standing on the cliff where he was inspired to write “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal”. Photo © Ed Rode

More terrible news for 2020. Legendary songwriter Billy Joe Shaver has passed from a stroke.

Was lucky to spend some time with him over the years. He was one of the first songwriters to join my songwriter essay project back in the early 90’s.

Best known as the songwriter of Waylon Jennings’ 1973 album ‘Honky Tonk Heroes, Billy Joe enjoyed a long and tumultuous career. Willie Nelson called him “the greatest living songwriter.” You can receive no higher praise in my book!

Here is a portrait I shot of him standing on the cliff where he was going to commit suicide before a lucky strike of lightning nearby brought him to his knees. He then wrote the first lines to one of his greatest hits “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal”.

“Hey I’m just an old chunk of coal but I’m gonna be a diamond some day
I’m gonna grow and glow till I’m so blue pure perfect
I’m gonna put a smile on everybody’s face
I’m gonna kneel and pray every day last I should become vain along the way”.

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