Outlaw country artist and acclaimed singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver has died. He was 81 years old.
Per the Associated Press, Shaver died on Wednesday (October 28) in Texas after suffering a stroke, his friend Connie Nelson said.
The Corsicana, Texas native was part of the original group of artists pioneering outlaw country, alongside Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and more. He moved to Nashville in 1968 and signed to artist Bobby Bare’s publishing company as a songwriter.
In 1973, Shaver released his debut album Old Five and Dimers Like Me, which was produced by Kristofferson. In that same year, Jennings recorded ten of Shaver’s songs on the album Honky Tonk Heroes.
Shaver would go on to have his songs recorded by Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson and many more. He also released his own studio albums, the latest being 2014’s Long in the Tooth.
Shaver’s outlaw reputation was bolstered by his colorful life and exploits: before he was a musician, he lost two fingers while working at a lumber mill; married and divorced the same woman three times; had a heart attack on stage; and at the age of 70 was acquitted of aggravated assault in the 2007 shooting of a man at a Waco bar.
Margo Price alluded to Shaver’s eventful life in a lengthy note she penned in remembrance. “He was one of the only people that really lived the life of an outlaw,” she wrote. “I don’t drink bourbon anymore but I’m havin a little nip for Billy tonight.”
Read her note and other tributes from fellow artists to Shaver here:
last thoughts on Billy Joe Shaver pic.twitter.com/mReObgOETK
— Margo Price (@MissMargoPrice) October 29, 2020
I’m saddened to learn that Billy Joe Shaver has passed away. Billy Joe opened for me on one of my early tours and was always amazing. His stories were captivating. He will be sorely missed. My condolences go out to his family, friends and fans. https://t.co/U2DWSDRDQU
— Travis Tritt (@Travistritt) October 28, 2020
RIP Billy Joe Shaver. Big loss. Legend in Outlaw Country. Start with “Shaver” which he did with his killer guitar player son Eddy and then Waylon Jennings’ “Honky Tonk Heroes” album which Billy Joe wrote. Travel well my friend.
— Stevie Van Zandt (@StevieVanZandt) October 28, 2020
Dear Billy Joe,
You’re gonna live forever
You’re gonna cross that river
You’re off to catch tomorrow now. Thank you for every single second. https://t.co/qbFAZNpv5r
— ATMOSPHERELESS ™️ (@amandashires) October 28, 2020
Billy Joe Shaver might’ve been the only true outlaw who ever made his living writing about the inner workings of his heart. The realest of them all.
— Jason IsBOO (@JasonIsbell) October 28, 2020
RIP, Billy Joe Shaver. Listen to essential songs from his extensive canon here: