Quantcast
JERRY JEFF WALKER, 1942-2020

Jerry Jeff Walker, the Texas singer/songwriter best known as the writer of the heartbreaking classic "Mr. Bojangles," died Friday at his home in Austin. He was 78. His publicist, who confirmed Walker's passing, said the cause of death was cancer.

Walker's work is beloved by country and Americana fans, particularly admirers of the "outlaw country" subgenre he helped pioneer.  

The man born Ronald Clyde Crosby grew up in New York City. An itinerant troubadour, he first gained a foothold in the Greenwich Village folk scene. After a stint with the psychedelic band Circus Maximus, he recorded his signature tune, "Mr. Bojangles," in 1968. It was subsequently cut by a bevy of stars, including Neil Diamond, Nina Simone, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Bob Dylan, Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Nilsson.

Though the song was his only mainstream hit, Walker developed a large and appreciative audience from his adopted base in Austin alongside such Texas outliers as Kinky Friedman and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Songs like "Pissin' in the Wind" and "Sangria Wine" offered its own spiky, disorderly spin on the outlaw ethos being limned by Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings.

Walker also aided in raising the profile of fellow tunesmiths like Ray Wylie Hubbard and Guy Clark, whose "L.A. Freeway" and "Desperadoes Waiting for the Train" Walker memorably performed.

As one of the architects of so-called "cosmic cowboy music," he helped shape the evolution of country music. His influence is detectable in the songs and style of numerous current stars. Several of his albums, notably his self-titled 1972 set and 1973's live outing, Viva Terlingua, mark the intersection of outlaw country, singer/songwriter rock and folk.

Following a suitably intoxicated run in the '70s, Walker gave up drugs and drink and continued recording and performing. Fortunately, he was able to bathe in the accolades he deserved as a master songwriter and founding father of outlaw country prior to his cancer diagnosis in 2017.

After that sobering milestone, he announced he'd be donating his musical archives to Texas State University's Wittliff Collections.

He's survived by daughter Jessie Jane McLarty, son Django and two grandchildren.

Take a listen to the selection of JJW works below—and keep exploring.

GRAMMY CHEW: A BIG MIDDLE FINGER TO US ALL, FROM GRAMMY
It doesn't make sense. (11/25a)
TOP 100 WEEKLY MARKETSHARE:
THE TIGHTENING
Cue Archie Bell & the Drells. (11/24a)
STATE OF PLAY
IN THE U.K.
The first entry from our 2020 U.K. print special is now online. (11/25a)
AMAs TACKLED FOR LOSS BY SNF
Oof (11/24a)
MUSIC ORGS IMPLORE CONGRESS FOR HELP
The gang's all here. (11/24a)
RAINMAKERS 2020
Bring your umbrella.
GRAMMY OUTLIERS
Mulling possible surprises.
ZOOM THANKSGIVING
We're virtually stuffing ourselves.
TRUMP'S LAWSUITS
He's lost 25 out of 26, and so tired of winning!
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)