Get Gene In! Induct ex-Byrds member Gene Clark into the Songwriters Hall of Fame
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Gene Clark (born Harold Eugene Clark, Tipton, MO, November 17, 1944) first attained stardom as a founding member of Los Angeles folk-rock/country-rock/psychedelic pioneers, the Byrds. During his tenure as the band’s principal songwriter, Clark appeared on their biggest hits (“Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Turn! Turn! Turn!”), penned many of their most beloved, influential works (including “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” “Set You Free This Time,” “Here Without You,” “She Don’t Care About Time”) and was the main composer of “Eight Miles High,” considered by many to be among the greatest singles of the 1960s.
After leaving the Byrds at the height of their fame in early 1966, Clark embarked upon a fearless solo career that embraced everything from chamber pop (Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, 1967) and progressive bluegrass (The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard and Clark, 1968) to acoustic ballads (White Light, 1971) and sweeping cosmic prog (No Other, 1974). His final album, 1987’s So Rebellious a Lover, recorded with ex-Textones leader Carla Olson, has been hailed as an influential progenitor of the Alt-country movement.
What set Clark apart from most pop/rock writers of his generation was a truly exceptional ability to infuse notoriously puerile subject matter (like romantic loss) with a disarming combination of narrative vulnerability and keening existential angst. Unusual chord changes typically accompanied Clark’s stirring, vibrato-laden tenor, while richly worded, uncommonly poetic lyrics earned him the moniker “Hillbilly Shakespeare.”
With a back catalogue as rich and eclectic as Clark’s, it is not surprising that his works have been interpreted by a vast array of artists – from virtually every genre of music. Clark’s work has been covered by, among others, Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, Tom Petty, Linda Ronstadt, Richard Thompson, Death in Vegas (with Paul Weller), Hüsker Dü, Iain Matthews, Yo La Tengo, This Mortal Coil, and Soulsavers (with Mark Lanegan). Additionally, two separate tribute albums have been released, The World Turns All Around Him and Full Circle; and Scottish rock band Teenage Fanclub penned a moving elegy to Clark on their 1993 album, Thirteen.
Gene Clark passed away on May 24, 1991, at his home in Sherman Oaks, California at the age of 46. While he was never to regain the same level of superstardom he saw as a member of the Byrds, his work continues to inspire and excite new generations of fans. In 2014, a veritable who’s-who of indie musicians (including members of Beach House, the Walkmen, Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear) banded together for the unprecedented purpose of touring Clark’s 1974 magnum opus, No Other (regularly featured in top-album lists). It was an extraordinarily selfless gesture that conferred upon Clark the widespread, well-deserved acclaim and respect that eluded him in life.
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