A Legacy That Will Live Forever: Remembering Billy Joe Shaver

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage via Getty Images)

The world lost a legend two years ago today. On October 28, 2020, Billy Joe Shaver died in Waco, Texas after suffering a stroke. He was 81 years old. In those 81 years, Shaver lived life to its fullest and his songs tell us all about it. The lived-in authenticity of his lyrics made him a pillar of the Outlaw Country movement.  

There’s so much to say about Billy Joe Shaver. There was the time he shot a guy in the face in a bar in Lorena, Texas. He got away with it and wrote the song “Wacko from Waco” about it. He famously threatened to kick Waylon Jennings’ ass if Waylon didn’t listen to his songs. Willie Nelson called him the “greatest living songwriter” before he passed. Steve Earle once said, “Billy Joe was already there before anybody was talking about an outlaw movement.” You could make a book out of wild stories and quotes like these about Shaver. Most succinctly put, Shaver was Outlaw Country.

In his 1996 autobiography, Waylon Jennings said, “For us, ‘outlaw’ meant standing up for your rights, your own way of doing things.” It’s safe to say that Shaver embodied that.

The Undying Legacy of Billy Joe Shaver

Even if you’ve never heard the name Billy Joe Shaver, you’ve probably heard and loved his songs. He wrote most of Waylon Jennings’ album Honky Tonk Heroes. Also, he penned the John Anderson hit “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal.Kris Kristofferson included Shaver’s “Good Christian Soldier” on his debut album. Hell, even Elvis cut one of Billy Joe’s songs. Presley put “You Asked Me To” on Promised Land. The list goes on for days.

“When you write songs, and you write good songs, people will always remember you,” Billy Joe Shaver once said. “Words will always outlive us. And, if your name is attached to those words, you’re gonna live forever.”

With so many of his songs being covered by a wide variety of artists, Shaver’s legacy will, without a doubt live forever.

Let the Music Speak for Itself

Billy Joe Shaver is one of those artists that I could write about forever. He lived the life that so many only sing about. While it put his mind and body through the wringer, it made him who he was and the country world wouldn’t be the same without him. He was a light that guided young musicians. Even now, two years after his passing, he’s an endlessly influential songwriter. And, it seems like everyone who worked with him looks back on him fondly.

So, let’s take some time today to remember ol’ Billy Joe the best way we can. Crank his music loud, sing along, and spread the word. If you don’t know which of his albums to cue up, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Check out More Than an Old Chunk of Coal: Remembering Billy Joe Shaver. While you’re at it, follow Outsider on Spotify to get the best tunes from our favorite artists.