Jerry Jeff Walker, Country Songwriter Known for ‘Mr. Bojangles,’ Dead at 78

by Matthew Wilson
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Jerry Jeff Walker has passed away at age 78. The country songwriter was best known for writing the 1968 classic “Mr. Bojangles.” CNY News confirmed that Walker passed away on Friday (Oct. 24).

No cause of death has been revealed at this time. In 2017, Walker battled a form of throat cancer, according to Austin American Statesman. During treatment for cancer, Walker developed both pneumonia and a blood infection. He spent several weeks in recovery for the illnesses.

Walker was born on March 16, 1942, in Oneonta, New York. His birth name was Ronald Clyde Crosby. He started his music career in the 1960s playing in the Greenwich Village in New York City. He became a staple in the folk scene there but soon left the city afterward.

Jerry Jeff Walker Got His Inspiration For ‘Mr. Bojangles’ While in Jail

His inspiration for his most iconic tune “Mr. Bojangles” came from the most unexpected of places. In 1965, police officers arrested Walker for public intoxication in New Orleans. He spent the night in jail with a street performer, which became the inspiration for the song. The song proved both popular and iconic with several famous musicians putting their own spin on the tune. Bob Dylan, Sammy Davis Jr., and Neil Diamond were among them.

In the 1970s, Walker moved to Austin, Texas where he became a staple in the city’s music scene. He worked with artists such as Willie Nelson, Gary Nunn, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Todd Snider. He proved to be very prolific as both a songwriter and musician, producing several albums across his career. In 2018, Walker released his last album It’s About Time.

“Mentally, I moved to Texas when I was about 15,” Walker told Long Star Music Magazine. “I just like the way of life in Texas, and the fact that people in Texas liked their lives sung about, talked about and told about.”

Walker shared his passion for music with his son Django, who plays in the Django Walker Band. He told Texas Highways the advice that he gave his son.

“Write a good song. Writing a good song is the foundation of a lot to keep you going,” Walker said. “Guy Clark’s advice to young people was ‘Don’t stand too long on one foot.’ But we all did, which gave us back problems.”

Walker is survived by his wife Susan, daughter Jessie Jane, and his son Django.

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