Susanna Clark, 73, country songwriter, acclaimed artist
By PETER COOPER June 28, 2012 6:56PM
Updated: July 30, 2012 6:36AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Susanna Clark, the former art teacher who went on to pen songs recorded by Emmylou Harris, Kathy Mattea, Miranda Lambert, Rosanne Cash, Jerry Jeff Walker, husband Guy Clark and many more, died Wednesday in Nashville. She was 73, and had been in poor health in recent years.
Clark was a vital figure in Nashville’s close-knit singer-songwriter community beginning in the early 1970s. She was a close friend and inspiration to Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell and others, and her lyrics, her music and her visual art were enjoyed by millions: Her evocative paintings graced the covers of Willie Nelson’s “Stardust,” Emmylou Harris’ “Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town,” Guy Clark’s “Old No. 1,” Nanci Griffith’s “Dust Bowl Symphony” and other acclaimed albums.
Clark was instrumental in convincing her husband to quit his work at a Houston television station and to focus on songwriting. The couple moved to Nashville together in 1971, and Guy Clark would go on to become a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“I just asked him what he wanted to do, and he said, ‘Music,’” she once told a Journal of Country Music reporter. “I said, ‘Well, let’s do it.’ And he said, ‘That’s the first time a woman has ever asked me to quit a job.’”
The Clarks’ household was a gathering place, a hive of activity for songwriters in the mid 1970s. Mrs. Clark was the first of those writers to pen a hit, and she did it with the first song she ever wrote, “I’ll Be Your San Antone Rose.”
“Even with Guy alone, I mean . . . It’s very hard to write songs in the presence of someone I consider one of the two best songwriters in the world, the other being Townes,” she told The Tennessean in 2001. “But I’d taken some guitar lessons and I’d always written poetry, and, as I watched these people come through our house and play, I began to combine those talents.”
“I’ll Be Your San Antone Rose” was a Top 20 country hit for singer Dottsy in 1975, the same year Clark was name-checked in her husband’s now-classic recording, “L.A. Freeway.” In 1978, she penned (with Carlene Carter) the lead track of Harris’ “Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town,” and she painted the album cover: A moon-sliver hanging above a tiny town that could well have been Clark’s birthplace of Atlanta, Texas.
“That’s the 10-cent town,” she told The Tennessean. “Since I wrote ‘Easy From Now On’ and she chose a line out of the song to use for the album cover, I got to paint my own song.’”
Clark went on to co-write (with Richard Leigh) Kathy Mattea’s 1989 country chart-topper, “Come From The Heart.” It was a song about purpose, artistry and soul.
“You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money,” began the chorus. “Love like you’ll never get hurt. You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watching/ It’s gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.”
Gannett News Service