Kenny Chesney Pays Tribute to Country Songwriter Guy Clark: 'If Nashville Had a Hemingway' It Was Him

Guy Clark
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Guy Clark photographed in Oakland, Calif. in 1998. 

Guy Clark, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame whose songs were recorded by Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, George Strait, Willie Nelson, Kenny Chesney and many others, died May 17 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 74. Chesney, who covered Clark's "Hemingway's Whiskey" on his 2010 album of the same name, remembers the singer-songwriter.

Nashville Songwriting Icon Guy Clark Dead at 74

When I got to Nashville, Guy Clark was one of those names you knew. It meant a level of songwriting few attained, but it also meant songs that contained the heart of real life.

I won't say he intimidated me as much as I was always blown away by the artistry he brought to homegrown tomatoes, old men, free-spirited women. He had grace and compassion for the people he wrote about, and he told the truth about the cost of being a slave to creativity.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Kenny Chesney

I have friends who pass me records I need to know. Someone gave me Somedays the Song Writes You, and I heard 'Hemingway's Whiskey.' It was a perfect song, and everything he says within the song -- about dignity, about living, about getting by -- pulled me in immediately.

If Nashville ever had a Hemingway, it was probably Guy Clark. As the song says, "Sail away, sail away as the day grows dim/Live hard, die hard, this one's for him..."

This article was originally featured in the May 28 issue of Billboard.