A nearly 20-year age gap didn’t keep Tanya Tucker and Billy Joe Shaver from becoming close friends. On the day of the elder country outlaw’s death, Tucker took to social media to tribute a man she calls “one of my greatest songwriting friends.”
“I’m just so torn between raising hell and lowering Heaven a little bit,” the 62-year-old Tucker writes. “I just go from looking back on our wonderful memories together to tears, then back to memories again.
“I have a lot to say about Billy Joe Shaver. He’s written so many songs, and I’m so glad I got to write a few of them with him,” she continues. “The whole songwriting community has suffered a huge loss today and most importantly the fans of country music.”
Shaver never enjoyed the same kind of commercial success that Tucker found early on (and then more recently) in her career. However, his songwriting and storytelling had long been heralded by artists including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and (more recently) Jason Isbell.
“Billy Joe Shaver might’ve been the only true outlaw who ever made his living writing about the inner workings of his heart,” Isbell said on Twitter. “The realest of them all.”
Tucker, who recorded Shaver’s 1973 song “Played the Game Too Long” with him for his 2007 Everybody’s Brother album, would agree. “Billy was one of a kind, he wasn’t like anyone else,” she says. “When he loved, he loved hard and I loved him right back.”
I just can’t find the words right now. Billy, he never had any trouble finding the right words when it came to a song, he was a master. Billy’s on his way to heaven and I’m just so glad I got to spend some of his life and some of my life together.
I miss you already, my friend. Adios.
Travis Tritt, Josh Abbott and newsman Dan Rather also shared their sadness on social media upon hearing of Shaver’s death after a stroke. The 81-year-old singer worked as an actor, too, including in three movies with Robert Duvall: 1996’s The Apostle, 2003’s Secondhand Lions and 2005’s The Wendell Baker Story.
In 2004, director Luciana Pedraza helmed A Portrait of Billy Joe, a documentary about Shaver. Additionally, Shaver performed the theme song for the Comedy Central show Squidbillies.