Country singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver has died at the age of 81.
He died on Wednesday after having suffered a massive stroke.
Shaver’s friend Connie Nelson confirmed his death to Rolling Stone.
He will be best known for his tracks Georgia on a Fast Train, Honky Tonk Heroes, Live Forever, and Old Five and Dimers Like Me
Singer-songwriter Willie Nelson previously called Shaver “the greatest living songwriter”.
Born in Texas in 1939, Shaver was raised by his mother Victory and became exposed to country music when he accompanied her to her job at a nightclub.
He joined the US Navy at the age of 17 and eventually worked in a lumbermill after being discharged and working dead-end jobs in between.
After moving to Houston in the Sixties, Shaver eventually became an apprentice for songwriter Harlan Howard in Nashville, before then working for songwriter Bobby Bare.
Having struggled in Nashville, Shaver got his big break when Kris Kristofferson recorded his song Good Christian Soldier for his debut album.
His 2007 country gospel album Everybody’s Brother was nominated for a Grammy Award.
That same year he was arrested on charges of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm in a prohibited place, but was ultimately found not guilty.
Last year, he received Poet’s Award from the Academy of Country Music for his numerous achievements in songwriting.
Shaver’s personal life was marred by tragedies and hardship. He lost two fingers on a sawmill at the age of 21, while in 1999 he lost his wife Brenda to breast cancer.
He and Brenda had been married three times after having divorced twice.
Their only son was guitarist Eddy Shaver who also served as a regular creative collaborator with his father.
Tragically, Eddy died at the age of 21 on New Year’s Eve 2000 as a result of a heroin overdose.
Following this, Billy Joe almost died of a heart attack in 2001 but managed to make a career comeback in 2002 after surgery.
A grieving Shaver told Rolling Stone that his friend Willie Nelson talked him out of taking revenge on his son’s drug dealer.
He said: “I knew where [the drugs] came from — that drug dealer, I would have shot him up and killed him instead of calling the police.
“But Willie talked me out of it. He said, ‘You’re best just leaving it alone.’ And I did. I just left it alone. But you don’t ever forget something like that.”
In 2014 Shaver released his final album Long in the Tooth, but continued to record and tour up until his death.
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