Billy Joe Shaver: August 16,1939 – October 28, 2020

Illustration, Mandy Newham-Cobb

By, Courtney S. Lennon

I’ve never been at a loss for words before. I always have words. They’re my job. Now, I have none. I should be able to write about Billy Joe Shaver in my sleep after spending the past few years writing a book about him. Maybe that’s a side effect of writing about a guy who chose all the right words in his songs. There are none left. Certainly none better. How can you beat, “Just like the songs I leave behind me, I’m gonna live forever now.”

You can’t. As I find myself struggling, I turn more than ever to his songs.  For some reason, his album cut “Tell Me Virginia” has been getting to me. He has all these songs that are so great in melody and words, yet they are seldom talked about. Then, of course, there’s “When I Get My Wings.” It has been bringing my friend Tyler and I to tears for days. Gets us every time. It’s so perfect and beautiful, “Gonna fly away singin’, I’m gonna fly; Gonna wrap my new wings ’round; A few feathered things in that free feelin’ sky; Gonna reach a new heaven, higher than high; When I get my wings, hey I’m gonna fly.”

Fly home, Billy Joe. You’ve been ready for this trip your whole life.

For more on Billy Joe Shaver:

Shaver and His Maker: The Turnstyled, Junkpiled Interview by Terry Paul Roland

The Billy Joe Show: Video Tribute 

Courtney S. Lennon

Courtney S. Lennon

Kin to legendary songwriter Stephen Foster, Courtney is a strong voice in the roots community. She is the founder and Editor of Turnstyled, Junkpiled Music Magazine, which she started after moving to Los Angeles in 2011. Courtney has contributed to No Depression, Lone Star Music Magazine, Texas Music Magazine, and Buffalo, NY-based JAM Magazine. She has written features on Ryan Bingham, Guy Clark, Terry Allen, Rodney Crowell, Radney Foster, Dale Watson, and Wanda Jackson, among others. She is the author of the forthcoming book, "Live Forever: The Songwriting Legacy of Billy Joe Shaver" (Texas A&M University Press).
Courtney S. Lennon

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