Friday Five: Billy Joe Shaver
Yesterday was Billy Joe Shaver’s 73rd birthday, so today’s Friday Five is a belated celebration of his songwriting. Everyone from Tex Ritter to Bob Dylan to Patty Loveless has recorded his work, so it was a bit of an effort to pick five favorite Shaver covers from such an extensive list. What are yours?
5. John Hartford – “You Asked Me To”
“Let the world call me a fool / But if things are right with me and you / That’s all that matters and I’ll do / Anything you asked me to.” Now that’s how you write a love song. This one’s a Shaver-Waylon Jennings collaboration — who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall when those two were writing?
4. Willie Nelson – “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train”
Willie was made to sing this song.
3. Waylon Jennings – “Black Rose”
Shaver had a hand in all but one of the songs on Jennings’ 1973 seminal outlaw country album Honky Tonk Heroes. With lyrics like “The devil made me do it the first time / The second time I done it on my own,” it must have been pretty obvious back then that the unknown Shaver was a special songwriting talent.
2. Emmylou Harris – “Old Five and Dimers Like Me”
Tom T. Hall’s version was my favorite until I saw Harris sing this one the other night. She said it was a song she’d wanted to record for some time, but felt she had to wait until she was at least 60. Makes sense: “Middle-Aged Five and Dimers Like Me” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
1. Johnny Cash – “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal”
Being this optimistic seems like a nice way to live. Better to become a diamond — or at least strive to become one — than stay a lump of coal in some engine room.
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