Country Legend Jerry Jeff Walker, Who Wrote And Sang "Mr. Bojangles," Dies At 78

Country Legend Jerry Jeff Walker, Who Wrote And Sang "Mr. Bojangles," Dies At 78

Walker was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2017 and died from the disease.

Jerry Jeff Walker who penned the famous pop and country song "Mr. Bojangles" has died. The Texas country singer and songwriter was 78 years old. According to TODAY, Walker was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2017. His family spokesman John T. Davis told The Associated Press that Walker died Friday and the cause of death was cancer. "He had battled throat cancer for many years, and some other health issues, the cause death was cancer," Davis said on Saturday. Nearly a year after he was first diagnosed, the musician told the Austin American Statesman in 2018, "I guess I took my singing for granted, and now I don’t." The late musician is survived by his wife Susan, son Django, and daughter Jessie Jane.



Walker was best known for his 1968 track "Mr. Bojangles," which was inspired by a street performer he met in a New Orleans drunk tank. The song was later covered by several artists including Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Nina Simone, and Dolly Parton to name a few. Rolling Stone reported that Walker was born Ronald Clyde Crosby in Oneonta, New York, and made his way through Florida and New Orleans before landing in Austin, Texas in 1971 where his career took off. He arrived just as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and other artists were emerging as hitmakers for their "raw" take on country music. Two years later, he released his landmark album ¡Viva Terlingua! which is "is regarded as a sacred text of the early outlaw country movement and, particularly, the progressive cosmic sound that preceded it." Walker told Rolling Stone in 2018 that  "It’s still the quintessential Texas album as far as explaining how it all was before Austin City Limits."  



According to PEOPLE,  Walker married his wife Susan in 1974, who later became his manager. Walker also came out with his own record label, Tried & True Music, with his wife in 1986. The musician released multiple albums under his label. Pitchfork reported that the singer-songwriter continued to record and perform late into his life. After his diagnosis, he released an LP in 2018 titled It’s About Time, which was his first recording since his diagnosis and final music release. In an interview with the Austin American-Statesman that year, Walker opened up about the time he spent navigating the music industry and writing songs that made sense to him. "I’ve been putting them in there one at a time, choosing my way as good as I can. And they fit me," he said. "So when it’s all done, and that goes away, I’m still me."



According to Variety, Jimmy Buffett, the songwriter of "Margaritaville" credited Walker with helping him to establish himself in Key West, Florida. "Jerry Jeff was kind enough to take me in and let me stay and live with him for a while," Buffett said, according to KTRK. "I worked part-time in an auto repair garage, working on his car and then, when the car got fixed, we drove to Key West."  Asleep at the Wheel leader Ray Benson told the Tennessean on Saturday.  Other than Willie, Jerry Jeff is the most important musician to happen to Austin, Texas, I would have to say. He really brought that folksinger/songwriter form to its height in Texas. And for that, he’ll be eternal, because there’s all these kids today that write songs in that mode."



Several celebrities also posted tributes in honor of the artist on social media. Football quarterback Eli Manning wrote: RIP Jerry Jeff Walker. Great Gonzos was one of the first cd’s that I bought. Growing up his music was a staple in the Manning household. Journalist Dan Rather tweeted: Sad word comes this morning that my friend and neighbor Jerry Jeff Walker has passed away. My condolences to his wonderful wife Susan and all his friends and family. He was a brilliant songwriter, singer, musician, and all around good guy. He will be missed. Country artist Jack Ingram called the musician an "absolute treasure in my life & a real hero."


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