Jerry Jeff Walker, Country Legend and 'Mr. Bojangles' Songwriter, Dies at 78
The singer-songwriter was a pioneer of the Texas outlaw country scene
Jerry Jeff Walker, the country music legend who wrote the hit "Mr. Bojangles," has died. He was 78.
The musician died Friday after a years-long battle with throat cancer and "some other health issues," family spokesperson John T. Davis confirmed to the Associated Press.
Born Ronald Clyde Crosby in Oneonta, New York, the artist made his way through Florida and New Orleans before landing in Austin, Texas in 1971 where his career took off, Rolling Stone reported.
Walker became a pioneer of the Texas outlaw country scene, where musicians like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Michael Martin Murphey were performing the progressive hippie-country sound. The musician gained popularity for his 1968 track "Mr. Bojangles," which was inspired by a street performer he met in a New Orleans drunk tank.
The track became Walker's first hit and was later covered by several artists including Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Nina Simone, Dolly Parton and more.
He also teamed up with the Los Gonzo Band to record the live album ¡Viva Terlingua! in 1973, which became a country-rock staple.
One year later, Walker married his wife Susan, who later became his manager, according to Pitchfork.
Walker went on to establish his own record label, Tried & True Music, with his wife in 1986. He released multiple albums under his label and continued to create and perform music late into his life.
Walker was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2017 and released his LP It's About Time in 2018, which was his first recording since his diagnosis and final music release.
Following the news of Walker's death, several celebrities posted tributes in honor of the artist on social media.
"RIP Jerry Jeff Walker. Great Gonzos was one of the first cd’s that I bought. Growing up his music was a staple in the Manning household," Eli Manning tweeted.
Country artist Jack Ingram wrote in another post, "He was an absolute treasure in my life & a real hero."
Former president Bill Clinton also tweeted he would "never forget seeing him at the Armadillo music hall in Austin in 1972, or his performance for my 1992 campaign the night before Election Day."
"He was a true original, and his music will live on," he added.