Guy Clark: 12 Essential Songs

From iconic gunfighter anthems to vulnerable proclamations of love

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"Cold Dog Soup"

It's easy for outsiders to romanticize the poet's life, but Clark knew from experience that living it was a different story. You could have all the brilliant and legendary friends in the world — and a talent to rival theirs — but you still might not be able to pay the rent in any given month. "Cold Dog Soup" was released in 1999, decades into Clark's life of poetry and song, and by that time he had come to terms with his lot in life — but that didn’t make it any easier. Playful and catchier than many of his best-known songs, "Cold Dog Soup" references fellow travelers like Tom Waits and Clark's mercurial friend Townes Van Zandt, as well as literary figures like Alan Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac. They all shared a passion for expression and individuality, and a shared struggle. Clark's chorus is so tight it feels written in stone, a half-warning embedded in a joke to be passed down and ignored for generations of poets to come. "Ain't no money in poetry / That's what sets the poet free / I've had all the freedom I can stand. Cold dog soup and rainbow pie / Is all it takes to get me by / Fool my belly till the day I die / Cold dog soup and rainbow pie."

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