Country icon Guy Clark died in Nashville on Tuesday morning (May 17), at age 74. The beloved singer-songwriter had been battling cancer for several years. Clark was a revered, influential figure whose work profoundly impacted many of country music’s most important artists. Among those who recorded his songs were Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley, among many others.

Born in West Texas, Clark served in the Peace Corps before moving to Houston, where he became close friends with such fellow songwriters as Townes Van Zandt and Jerry Jeff Walker. Relocating to Nashville in 1971, he soon established himself as a master craftsman of richly detailed, literary songs rife with character and emotion. He also acted as a mentor to such future country greats as Steve Earle and Vince Gill.

Guy Clark

Through the years Clark released more than 20 albums, including the Grammy-nominated 1997 live LP Keepers and the Grammy-nominated 2006 album, Workbench Songs. His final record, My Favorite Picture of You, earned him a Grammy for Best Folk Album in 2014. Honors included induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Music Association.

For the most part, however, commercial success never came near to matching Clark’s reputation among his peers. His sweeping legacy can be found in the monumental impact he and his songwriting had on the broader songwriting community. “For more than forty years, the Clark home was a gathering place for songwriters, folk singers, artists and misfits; many who sat at the feet of the master songwriter in his element, willing Guy’s essence into their own pens,” reads a statement on his Facebook page. “Throughout his long and extraordinary career, Guy Clark blazed a trail for original and groundbreaking artists and troubadours, including his good friends Rodney Crowell, Jim McGuire, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett, Verlon Thompson, Shawn Camp, and Vince Gill.”

Writer Robert K. Oermann expressed similar sentiments two decades ago, hailing Clark as a figure of understated dignity. “[He is] the patron saint of an entire generation of bohemian pickers,” observed Oermann. “Guy Clark has become an emblem of artistic integrity, quiet dignity and simple truth.”