Thursday, November 17, 2016

Look, for God's sake, *you* are working class, you bloody idiot!

Not actually working class: A billionaire property mogul and a private schooled City banker. 
"I was looking for a job and then I found a job and Heaven knows I'm miserable now," sung Morrissey in Manchester band The Smiths' song from the depths of Thatcher's England in the mid-80s.

I have never really heard a better description of the essential condition of the working class, forced to look for work they hate just to survive. I don't want to get all "Karl Marx" on you, but that is the basic definition of that mythical beast, The Working Class ... those that fucking work, or seek fucking work, and do so because they have no fucking choice.

Does that apply to you? Does that apply to the vast majority of people you know? Then I am sorry to be the one to break the news, but you're Working Fucking Class. Or WFC if that makes you feel any better in this age of social media-speak, hell go for a #wfclol hashtag if you want to retain your essential ironic sense of self-deprecation. You'll still have to get up far too fucking early tomorrow morning and go perform mind-numbing and possibly body destroying tasks under the direction of some prick you despise.

Does this matter? Does such a passe concept as "class" really count for much in our glorious neoliberal post-modern, post-class, post politics, post fucking a safe fucking climate for human fucking habitation world? Does it matter if most people view "working class" as some outdated trope of a white bloke in a hard hat or as some sort of sociological label determined simply by income level? As opposed to, you know... whether you work?

Yes, I think so, to judge by the endless think pieces right now on a fictional working class where everyone is white and fulfilling the stereotype thought up in the heads of some journalist who, just days ago, was certain Donald Trump would lose badly and now, having ignored class for years, is full of wisdom about a mythical Working Class that Must Be Heard.

I think it matters because, understood as "those that work", the working class is a large majority in the world, divided up, of course, across many racial, ethnic, gender and other lines.

It matters because we've been hearing so much about this great mythical Working Class beast since the Brexit vote in Britain in June. We've been hearing even more since the position of Leader of the Free World/Nation that Drone Strikes Children and Overthrows Governments for Fun and Profit, was won by the KKK-backed billionaire child rapist slumlord Donald Trump.

Many, understandably, want to know how the Hell did that freak reality TV show bigot win the White House.

Was it maybe the hollowing out of US institutions and total corruption of what little democracy that was by oceans of corporate money? Was it maybe the fact that the Democrats, in the Oval Office for the past eight years, have long pushed a brutal neoliberalism destroying livelihoods across the country, while also pursuing brutal war overseas and mass incarceration of predominantly Black people at home (a key part of their voter base), while also mass deporting Latino migrants... and in doing so totally destroying the ground on which they seek to stand?

Was it the fact that when Bernie Sanders ran an insurgent campaign for the Democrat nomination, setting it alight with calls for a "political revolution" against the "billionaire class", and received polls after polls suggesting he could easily defeat Trump while Clinton would struggle, the Democrats sabotaged his campaign and installed the ultimate establishment candidate any way?

Was it the extreme restriction of democracy in the self-proclaimed Greatest Democracy on Earth(TM)? Things like the fact that many who wanted to vote couldn't, in part coz the elections are on a working day, the Voters Rights Act to protect Black voters had been rolled back for the first time in 50 years, and there were hundreds of less polling booths in places where predominantly poor and black people vote? Was it the fact that literally millions of (again disproportionately Black) prisoners and ex-prisoners were denied the right to vote at all?

No. It was, as alleged "think" piece after alleged think piece insists, The Working Class. Somewhere, Hillary Clinton is angrily shaking her fist as terrified campaign workers cower while she shouts, "AND I WOULD HAVE GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT, TOO, IF IT WASN'T FOR THOSE DARN WORKERS!"

Don't worry about the fact that actually the evidence is Tump attracted the support of wealthier voters than Clinton (perhaps not surprising since he did promise widespread tax cuts), don't worry about his appeals to deep-seated racism and bigotry, don't worry about the fact that the Republican vote actually dropped overall compared to 2012, it is just the Democrat vote dropped even more.

Forget all of that. In some key states, some white rural workers with economic concerns voted for Trump and therefore, we must all listen to The Working Class, OK?

And don't get the liberal think pieces wrong. They don't mean this as an attack on The Working Class! God no!

Sure their version of The Working Class voted for a misogynist racist self-confessed sexual abuser, but it is only because the poor people are in such pain. We just need to listen to their pain! Don't call them racist just because they say, think, chant and vote racist. Try to understand.

Of course, at this point, it probably important to note that the working class of these think pieces has one clear characteristic that is usually openly admitted.

That it, it is white.

Yes it was the white working class, which, to go by the think pieces, is the most workering working class to ever be a class and also work! 

This, of course, is not the entire US working class. Huge chunks of working people in the US are not, actually, white and research suggests white people will be a minority of the US workforce in about 15 years.


Not a white worker.
But not only do many pieces talk about the US working class as if it is exclusively white, they describe a narrow layer of blue collar white workers.

Take this piece I've seen shared around. It's headline is "What Many People Don't Get About the US Working Class" and it was shared by Daily Kos, a pro-Democrat liberal, progressive leaning site as a "must read".

Despite a headline suggesting it is about the "US" working class, it explicitly about, and only about, a narrow sector of workers — a layer of blue collar white workers who, as the post spells out, support a right-wing agenda, such as resenting and opposing those poorer than them receiving government assistance.

And what does the Daily Kos, a website associated closely with the Democrats, conclude?
Must read Harvard Business Review article for all of us as we reflect and regroup. We don’t have to pander to any racism but we still need to retain enough of the white working class vote in MI, PA and WI for 2020 with a message of economic populism even as we wait for the demographics to turn. 
Well that is real caring for The Working Class right there!  Send a "message" of "populism" to a sector you clearly don't understand and seem to despise while you "wait for the demographics to turn"!

Really I have no idea how such people failed to defeat Trump.

Forget Black people robbed of the right to vote! Forget the poor who found voting near impossible or just couldn't bring themselves to vote for either candidate who hates their guts, forget the fucking millions of Latino migrants who grow the fucking food and clean the fucking homes and face mass fucking deportation (and not just from Trump but from Obama first)...

The Key Sector is the White Working Class. And the White Working Class backed Trump because... well because it seems to suit people to imagine they did even when the statistics say that wasn't who voted Trump.

And I see this shit about the "need to listen to the working class" being shared on social media by people who a) don't support Trump in the slightest and b) are themselves working class.

Now that is self-hatred for you. Left-wing working class people pushing the idea that the working class, as a collective, is right wing. The working class is forever presented as some sort of "Other", mysterious, romantic, hard-to-pin-down... as opposed to what it is — that is, those who work.

So was Brexit and Trump's win a "revolt" of the working class?

Yes, in Brexit, many working class people voted for Brexit. Many working class people also voted to stay in the EU too. In the stay camp was the large majority of people who identified as Black, as Asian and/or as Muslim — who are overwhelmingly working class — and most Scottish and northern Irish people.

So if you want to talk about the "working class revolt" in Brexit and ignore Black, Asian, Muslim, Scottish and Irish workers within the British state.... then... well the polite way to put it is you are not really helping combat racism exactly.

And in Trump's win...  we are told, endlessly, we need to listen to Trump supporters. Never mind that actually the vast majority of American people did not vote Trump and he won with about 25% of registered voters.

The problem with presenting The Working Class as that narrow layer of white blue collar workers who joined the largely middle class voting base for Trump is it ignores a key challenge facing the actual working class. Which is how, when so stratified by race, ethnicity, gender and more, to actually unite to pose a challenge to all of our enemies in the corporate elite?

Because Trump's appeal is to small-minded privilege, for white people to blame those weaker, for men to keep their power over women in their lives, and to see the "Swamp" in Washington in these terms — those whose "political correctness" hands over the narrow, petty privileges of white people, of men, of straight people, of "proper Americans" over the fucking usurpers of every minority that wants to get the fucking boot off their necks.

We hear repeatedly that "We need to listen to Trump supporters", but the people who say that clearly don't. I mean have a fucking listen! It is not like they are quiet! These bastards SHOUT their views and concerns at the any opportunity!

As  wise man once said (ie me in my Green Left Weekly column last week):
When Trump supporters chanted “We don’t like Muslims, we don’t like Blacks, we want our country back”, it is unlikely this was code for “we need to be more concerned about the impacts of pro-corporate trade deals on our nation’s manufacturing industry and its flow-on effect to a drastically weakened working and middle class”.
It is likely they meant they don’t like Muslims and they don’t like Blacks.
And when Trump supporters at Sydney University responded to Trump’s win by chanting “grab them by the pussy, that’s how we do it!”, it is unlikely they meant “What Australian politics needs is a genuine outsider to take on a corrupt, out of touch political class and reverse the neoliberal economic policies causing a serious decline in living standards”.
It is likely they meant they like sexually assaulting women.
 Plus there is this tweet, which says the same thing in much less words:


If you want an actual working class revolt in the United States... well I can think of two right now that are worth actually listening to... and these revolts are completely against the interests and policies of BOTH Trumpite Republicans and Clintonite Democrats.

On May 1 2006, more than 1 million largely Latino migrant workers staged mass walk-outs in protests for amnesty for undocumented migrants and and end to deportations. They shut the country down.

More workers who aren't white.

As Green Left Weekly said at the time:
According to combined police estimates, 1.1 million immigrant workers and their supporters marched in more than 75 major cities across the US on May 1 ...Over and above those who marched were hundreds of thousands more who boycotted shopping and skipped school or work ...

One of the goals of the actions was to demonstrate the impact of a "day without immigrants". This goal was surely met. School attendance in cities with large concentrations of immigrants was way down. The New York Times reported that "stores and restaurants in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York closed because workers did not show up or as a display of solidarity with demonstrators". In one area of Chicago, only 17% of students showed up. There were TV pictures of empty supermarkets usually patronised by immigrants.
 
In California's Central Valley, where much of the country's produce is grown, no farm workers came to work. TV showed eerie shots of vacant fields. Much of the construction industry was shut down across the country. Major meat-packing companies, including Tyson Foods, Swift and Perdue chickens, shut down many plants because their immigrant workers didn't show up. The largest port on the west coast, in Long Beach, California, was shut down, because the truck drivers were nowhere to be seen. 
Vast swaths of service industries — hotels, restaurants, car washes, and so forth — were affected. Nannies took a day off. Workers who couldn't take the day off went to rallies after work ... 
I might go out on a limb and suggest this is what a working class revolt against an out-of-touch establishment looks like. But there is a second, more recent, example. CNN reported on October 31 on a mass strike by US inmates, who do large amounts of forced labour for very low pay, producing key goods for various authorities and companies:

Last month, on the 45th anniversary of the infamous Attica Prison uprising, tens of thousands of US inmates launched a nationwide protest that continues today, according to advocates who helped organize the effort.
The inmates' grievances are as varied as the states they came from: Pennies for labor in South Carolina, racial discrimination in California, excessive force in Michigan. However, they share an overarching goal: End legalized slavery inside American correctional facilities...  the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution, while banning slavery, allows prisoners to work for little to no pay, in what inmate advocates say crosses the limits of human decency, amounting to modern-day servitude ... 
Since September 9, the Incarcerated Workers' Organizing Committee, a prisoner rights advocacy group, estimates as many as 50,000 inmates have taken part in coordinated strikes planned through social media on cell phones and snail mail across nearly two-dozen states ...

OMG,  more non-white workers? But then who do we listen to???

Don't forget that those carrying out these working class revolts generally can't vote (as prisoners or undocumented migrants). Yet, hand-wringing liberal media responses to the rise of right-populism notwithstanding, they form part of the working class you might want to consider listening to.

This all matters because working people have some real power. But not if you invent a fictional working class, based on a narrow layer of some white workers, because it fits some strange narrative you are trying to present. Consider that actually, the actual working class, the one capable imposing its will  for progressive change, includes you.

Here are two songs about the working class I really like. The first is those working class Welsh rockers and socialists, the Manic Street Preachers, with their track about working class culture and defiance (which went to number 2 int he UK charts in 1996). the second Latino hip hop duo from the Bronx, Rebel Diaz, re-interrupting the classic working class anthem "Which Side Are You On", written in the 1930s in support of a US coal miners strike, for the 21st Century.



Libraries gave us power
Then work came and made us free
What price now for a shallow piece of dignity
I wish I had a bottle
Right here in my dirty face to wear the scars
To show from where I came
We don't talk about love we only want to get drunk
And we are not allowed to spend
As we are told that this is the end
A design for life


Making money for suckers and our communities poor
Ripping flags off of coffins, man, this ain't our war
Colonized and terrorized by the world's biggest killers
The US government, the biggest weapon and drug dealers
Filling prisons with children, incarcerating the future
Myspace and Facebook got us stuck on computers
Stuck on stupid bumping music that's abusive to the shorties
And the nonsense that you spitting, they just listen and absorb it
I've been dormant, I've awoken, I'm a giant, I'm ready
I'm with the APPO in Oaxaca and we holding machetes


Monday, November 14, 2016

ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldfallapart

This Manic Street Preachers song from 1994 is pretty much just true. The same applies to Australia.



Images of perfection, suntan and napalm
Grenada, Haiti, Poland, Nicaragua
Who shall we choose for our morality?
I'm thinking right now of Hollywood tragedy

Big Mac, smack, Phoenix R, please smile y'all
Cuba, Mexico can't cauterize our discipline
Your idols speak so much of the abyss
Yet your morals only run as deep as the surface

Cool, groovy, morning fine
Tipper Gore was a friend of mine
I love our free country
The stars and stripes and an apple for Mommy

Conservative say, there ain't no black in the Union Jack
Democrat say, there ain't enough white in the Stars and Stripes

Compton, Harlem, a pimp fucked a priest
The white man has just found a new moral savior
Vital stats, how white was their skin?
Unimportant, just another inner city drive-by thing

Morning fine, serve your first coffee of the day
Real privilege, it will take your problems all away
Number one, the best, no excuse from me
I am here to serve the moral majority

Cool, groovy, morning fine
Tipper Gore was a friend of mine
I love our free country
The stars and stripes and an apple for Mommy

Zapruder, the first to masturbate
The world's first taste of crucified grace
And we say, there's not enough black in the Union Jack
And we say, there's too much white in the Stars and Stripes

Fuck the Brady Bill
Fuck the Brady Bill
If God made man they say
Sam Colt made them equal

Saturday, November 12, 2016

'All the news is bad, is there any other kind? And everybody's talking at the same time...'

I think I might just leave this here.





Get a job, save your money, listen to Jane
Everybody knows umbrellas will cost more in the rain
All the news is bad
Is there any other kind?
Everybody's talking at the same time


Well it's hard times for some
For others it's sweet
Someone makes money when there's blood in the street
Don't take any lip
Stay in line
Everybody's talking at the same time


Well the dog is in the kitchen
And the war drags on
The trees wait by the freeway
All the moneys all gone
Well she told me she would leave me
I ignored all the signs
And now everybody's talking at the same time
Everybody's talking at the same time


Ain't no one coming to pull you from the mud
You gotta build your nest high enough to ride out the flood
I know you're leaving and there's no more next time
Everybody's talking at the same time


A tiny boy sat and he played in the sand
He made a sword from a stick
And a gun from his hand
Well we bailed out all the millionaires
They've got the fruit
We've got the rind
And everybody's talking at the same time

Everybody's talking at the same time

Friday, November 11, 2016

'Everybody knows the fight was fixed, the poor stays poor, the rich get rich...'


The way this year is shaping up, I am not sure there will actually anyone left alive soon — and with Trump in the White House, I am not just talking about the seemingly endless parade of musicians dropping off. Leonard Cohen is the latest at the decent age of 82.

And while Cohen's crimes included supporting the terrorist state of Israel and writing a song ("Hallelujah") that subjected humanity to an even greater amount of horrific cover versions by dodgy pub acts and buskers than even "Wonderwall", it has to be said "Everybody Knows", from 1998's I'm Your Man, is a disturbingly accurate song for our times...




Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you've been faithful
Ah, give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you've been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

And everybody knows that it's now or never
Everybody knows that it's me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah, when you've done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows

And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it's moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you're in trouble
Everybody knows what you've been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it's coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Thursday, November 10, 2016

'To hell with you're double standards, we're coming rougher every time'.



President-elect Donald Trump can talk all he wants about walls and send armed thugs in uniform to deepen the terrorisation of immigrants in the United States. But it is unlikely you can stop people who are determined to win what little freedom and safety this fucked up world has to offer.

For that matter, that smug suited prick Malcolm Turnbull should consider this too.


Immigrada, Immigraniada
Immigrada, Immigraniada da da
Immigrada, Immigraniada
We coming rougher everytime
In corridors full of tear gas
Our destinies change every day
Like deleted scenes from Kafka
Flushed down the bureaucratic drain
But if you give me the invitation
To hear the bells of freedom chime
To hell with your double standard
We comin' rougher every time
We coming rougher, we coming rougher
We coming rougher everytime
(Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey)
We coming rougher every time

Immigrada, Immigraniada
Immigrada, Immigraniada da da
Immigrada, Immigraniada
We comin' rougher everytime
And those who made it and quickly jaded
To them we got nothing to say
Immigrada, Immigraniada
For them Don Quixote kind of way
But if you give me the invitation
To hear the bells of freedom chime
To hell with your double standard
We comin' rougher every time
We coming rougher, we coming rougher
We coming rougher everytime
(Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey)
We comin' rougher every time
Immigrada, Immigraniada
Immigrada, Immigraniada da da
Immigrada, Immigraniada
We coming rougher everytime
Frozen eyes, sweaty back
My family's living on the railroad track
All my life I back in black
But man, I got to earn this black
I gotta pay representation
To be accepted in a nation
Where after efforts of a hero
All comes start again from zero
It's a book of a true stories
True stories that can't be denied
It's more than true, it actually happened
It's more than true, it actually happened
It's more than true, it actually happened
We comin' rougher every time
Rougher every time
We comin' rougher every time
We coming rougher, we coming rougher
We coming rougher everytime
(Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey)
We coming rougher every time
Immigrada, Immigraniada
Immigrada, Immigraniada da da
Immigrada, Immigraniada
We comin' rougher everytime

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Political scum, political scum! You lead the way and you beat the drum...

In the Land Of The Free (TM). a vote is about to happen. Like the rest of the world, multiple alien civilisations are no doubt watching, looking down on us and watching the result closely to see if there is any point invading. 

The short answer is: probably not. At least, if Clinton wins, not unless you can muster the invasion force within the for years or so before the inevitable nuclear war with Russia and/or eco-holocaust renders the planet simply not worth occupying. If Trump wins... well, no one need bother travelling galaxies with a bid to harvest our brains, they will have all melted in horror, even ignoring the near-inevitable nuclear war even sooner

A wise man (ie me)  once said of these elections that it was a battle "to determine who gets to order new crimes against humanity, in which one candidate is a far-right, racist, woman-hating, tax-avoiding failed property mogul, reality TV star and serial sex offender, and the other is, by all available evidence, a robot built by Goldman Sachs".

As a less wise man (ie not me, but unAustralian writer Peter Green at The unAustralian) summed it up in an unOz piece headline: "America Prepares To Vote For Which Type Of Chaos To Descend Into"
But  ultimate, chicago-based Celtic punk veterans The Tossers say just about what needs to be said in this little ditty below:


Well over the sea, and far away,
Our kids die in deserts, they been sent that way,
To guard oil rigs where the head cutters reign,
And blow them away without any refrain
Well why are we here? It’s thinning us out,
To see our life’s work in your constituents clout,
Is your exclusion of dissidence masking your guilt?
Do you want to be dissident in the world that you’ve built?

Political scum! Political scum!
You lead the way, you beat the drum
Political scum, Political scum!
Sacrificing your own while their under your thumb

When broke powerless people grab any power they can get
Dominance over women, racism and threats
We’ll be loosing media jobs and you make us your pet
Reconsidering this weakness and the promise he forgets
Do you really believe in the stories you tell?
How Christ turned his cheek or came down from the hill
Will you profiteer or ransack with the soldiers you kill,
Are you upward bound or will you burn in hell?!

Political scum! Political scum!
You lead the way, you beat the drum
Political scum, Political scum!
Sacrificing your own while their under your thumb...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Remembering Guy Clark: 'I believe everything you're saying, just keep on, keep on playing...'

Guy Clark with songwriter and wife Susanna.

Guy Clark, the godfather of an incredibly creative Texas music scene who died on May 17 aged 74, is described, at his official website as a "master songwriter".

There are few who could make such a claim without it jarring as an unseemly boast. But there's no empty boast or inflated ego here. It is simply an accurate description of Guy Clark, who built a stronger bridge than anyone else between country music and poetry.

To mention "poetry" suggests pretensions, but there is zero pretense to a Guy Clark song. They are stripped back, recorded simply and featuring lyrics filled with straight-forward yet vivid images. I hear a Guy Cark song and I can see every bit.

Clark sings his most famous song, "Desperados Waiting for a Train", and I can see the scenes clearly. The old men in the Green Frog Cafe with beer and dominoes; the kid hanging off the old driller, absorbing everything he sees, driving the elder's car while the drunken man slumps in the passenger seat; and the bemused sadness and nostalgia taking over the fully grown Clark as he watches his hero disappear irretrievably into the black hole of old age.

He sings "The Randall Knife", a story about his father told through his relationship with a famous brand of knife, and I see the knife. I see Guy Clark as a boy managing to snap off half an inch off the prized possession when, in his youthful incompetence, he tries to "stick it in a tree". And I see the adult Clark, opening the bottom draw in his dead father's study, taking out the knife from where it has long sat, being overwhelmed by tears.

That song is as good as any an example of Guy Clark's mastery of the form. It is filled with sentiment, yet never becomes soppy, or even damp, with sentimentality. It is like Clark's songs were carved from granite and he delivered them with the dirt still on.

Legendary Texas country singer Ray Wylie Hubbard noted of Clark:

"LA Freeway and Desperados – they were like [Sam] Peckinpah movies, they were that powerful. Then he had this ability too to write these incredible love songs that were just so simple in what they said. And turn around and write Dublin Blues that would make you cry."

The simplicity and directness of Clark's songs is not accidental. He crafted them with care and everything extraneous was cut off or filed away, until all that is left is all needed to tell a heart-rending story with a well-packed punch. The result is a collection of songs that, each of them, sound like a picture of the sun setting on a lone tree in the Texas outback that has survived a century of battering storms.

Friend and fellow country singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell said:

Guy Clark was the best self-editor I've ever come across. He had lines that other songwriters could hang a career on, but Guy would throw them out if they didn't fit the narrative. That was the technical part of his skill as a writer.

To consider how consistently great Guy Clark was, his final album (2013's Pictures of You) is of the same quality as his debut, (1975's Old No. 1). If that sounds like a backhanded compliment, implying he hadn't developed over his career, then you clearly haven't heard the debut.

Few debuts can have contained so many classics -- "Desperados", "LA Freeway", "Old Time Feeling", "Anyhow I love You", "Let Him Roll"... Not even Tom Waits, who can make the rare claim to being a better storytelling songwriter than Guy Clark, had a debut of the same calibre. It took Waits probably four albums (until to 1976's Small Change) before he developed from "promising" to "brilliant". Clark's first album was already there.

On "Let Him Roll", Clark sings a chorus in which a wino declares that "Heaven was just a Dallas whore" -- and manages to make the listener feel genuine empathy for the characters, the wino and aforementioned sex worker both. Not for nothing does discussing Clark bring to mind Tom Waits (whom Clark pays tribute to in the bitingly ironic "Cold Dog Soup").

A perfect measure of the quality of Clark's early music is the fact that Johnny Cash covered two songs from his debut ("Let Him Roll" and, with the Highwaymen, "Desperados") -- and then covered a third from his second album. Cash covered many songs from many artists, but I doubt too many could claim such a hit rate with their initial recordings.

It is hard to talk about Clark without raising his late friend and fellow Texas country singer Townes Van Zandt, who died in 1997 aged 52. Hubbard notes:

Guy and Townes – that was the level that everybody aspired to. I don’t think anyone reached that level of writing that the two of them did. But if your heart was in the right place, you would aspire to that caliber of writing.

It can be frustrating to consider the relative obscurity Clark enjoys; in his field he is a giant, but outside is little known, except perhaps some who may have heard "Desperados" at some point. From Sydney, Australia, where there seems an ingrained hostility to country music unless you can package it up in some cool label like "alt.country" or "Americana", that obscurity can seem overwhelming.

Van Zandt, on the other hand, although hardly a household name, has a cult following Clark never developed outside his own genre. Partly, this might be explained by the "doomed romantic" side to Van Zandt -- the genius poet who drank himself to death (unlikely to have felt very romantic to anyone who knew him).

Clark, no stranger to some heavy drinking (just look at the boozy scenes in the great 1976 documentary about the Texas country music documentary Heartworn Highways), was far less a "burn bright and burn out" character.

But partly Van Zandt's cult comes not from myth, but the very real spark of genius that seems to enliven his songs. Clark, on the other hand, was much more the hardworking craftsman. He fashioned songs like a master carpenter fashions a beautiful-yet-functional chest of draws. They last.

Clark was a giant in the history of Texas music and country music more generally -- both for his own music and his role as mentor to more than one generation of up-and-coming songwriters. Clark was a huge source of direct inspiration to a whole generation of songwriters in Texas and Nashville and beyond. You can see his status as the head of a rambling troupe of younger performers in Heartworn Highways (including a young Steve Earle and the aforementioned Crowell).

For instance, one successful country singers (and I reject bullshit labels like "roots music" or "Americana", which are just ways to try to make country music sound cooler to ignorant dickheads who think "country" means OTT country pop singers with stupid cowboy hats leading line dances, as opposed to one of the most vivid and alive forms of folk music) Gillian Welch wrote on Facebook after Clark's death:

Guy was one of my most vocal, and inebriated, supporters when I moved to Nashville. He used to recite my lyrics aloud at dinner parties and barrooms to people who said they had never heard of me. He took Dave and I out on the road with him for our first tour through Texas, where I learned more than I could ever say. I could never thank him enough for his support and his artistry ... 

As his official website noted when he died:

For more than 40 years, the Clark home was a gathering place for songwriters, folk singers, artists and misfits; many who sat at the feet of the master songwriter in his element, willing Guy’s essence into their own pen. Throughout his long and extraordinary career, Guy Clark blazed a trail for original and groundbreaking artists and troubadours.

When I hear the likes of Guy Clark -- when I hear his song about a woman's dash for freedom in "She Aint Goin' Nowhere", for instance, fill with poetic humanism -- I always think that letting this world be destroyed by corporate greed is too insane for words. Who could let a world that produced such beauty be killed off.

Below is my playlist of 21 songs by Clark, but below that is a handful of songs of other artists covering Guy Clark (or in the case of Hayes Carll, singing a song he co-wrote with Clark).

But most likely if you are not already a Guy Clark fan, you aren't going to listen to most of these, if any. So if you want one Guy Clark song that best captures his simple, heartrending poetry, then go for the song Guy Clark calls, in the clip below, his own "favourite song". When you listen to it, consider whether, like New South Wales where I live, the government is cutting women's refuges.




'She had a way of her own, like prisoners have a way with a file...'









'That old time feeling goes sneaking down the hall...'





'I wish I had a dime for every bad time, but the bad times always seem to keep the change...'





'And I'd rather die young than to live without you. I'd rather go hungry than eat lonesome stew...'





'There aint no money in poetry, that's what keeps the poet free. I've had all the freedom I can stand...'





'How dark is it? It's so dark the wind gets lost...'




'One man's angel is another man's ghost'




'And everything's forgiven that did not wash away ...'

Not a cover but a song that the brilliant contemporary Texas country singer-songwriter Hayes Carll co-wrote with Clark for Carll's 2005 album, Little Rock. Carll was just one of many beneficiaries of Clark's mentorship and collaboration.





'To me, he was one of the heroes of this country...' 

Well, Johnny, Willie, Waylon and Kris know a classic song when they hear one. There is not much that can be said when they cover you.