Guy Clark: 12 Essential Songs

From iconic gunfighter anthems to vulnerable proclamations of love

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"Randall Knife"

Clark's father was a lawyer, but he was a complex man: he fought in World War II, and long held on to the knife that his own mother had given him before he went off to battle. (Clark once joked that is was a Texas rite of passage to receive a "pocket knife and a wet stone" as a child.) Originally released on 1983's Better Days, "Randall Knife" is about the true layers in which a death washes over us: the memories we attach to simple objects, the doubts we place on our own grief and the emotions that keep creeping in when we least expect them. "They asked me what I wanted, not the law books, not the watch," he sang. "I need the things he's haunted." Clark understood where real value truly resided.

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