NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Outlaw country singer songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, who wrote songs like “Honky Tonk Heroes,” “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train” and “Old Five and Dimers Like Me,” has died He was 81.
His friend Connie Nelson said he died Wednesday in Texas following a stroke.
Born in Corsicana, Texas, Shaver was among the original group of outlaw country artists in the early '70s, penning songs for Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare, Kris Kristofferson, Tom T. Hall and Willie Nelson.
Shaver's lyrics reflected his hardscrabble upbringing in Texas, where he lost part of two fingers while working at a lumber mill. He came to Nashville in 1968 and was signed as a writer to Bare's publishing company.
His big break came when Jennings recorded several of Shaver's songs for his 1973 album “Honky Tonk Heroes," which helped popularize the outlaw country genre and turn the maverick country artists into legends.
"There weren’t another other way to be/For lovable losers, no account boozers/And honky tonk heroes like me," Shaver wrote in the title track.
“When Waylon did ‘Honky Tonk Heroes’ and all those songs in the early 1970s, I couldn’t have possibly sang those songs as he could. The songs were bigger than my talent as a singer and I knew that, too,” Shaver told The Associated Press in 1993.
Shaver wrote songs that were covered by Elvis Presley, Patty Loveless, George Jones, Tex Ritter, Tennessee Ernie Ford and John Anderson.