Country music legend Roy Clark has passed away at the age of 85.
I have to admit – Hee Haw was not something that I watched. Growing up as a kid in the Chicago area, I didn’t have much exposure to Country music. Sure, there were radio stations playing it, like WMAQ (during the “WMAQ’s gonna make me rich!” era) and WJEZ; they were never played in our home.
In fact, the first thing I thought of when I heard of Clark’s passing was the Big Note Easy Guitar songbook. Remember that? It was the book with the stickers you placed on the guitar to learn how to play chords. “Just strum – and hey, you’re makin’ music.”
Had I been paying attention, though, I would have realized that Roy Clark wasn’t just a guy in a corn patch on television. Clark released 37 LPs and charted 50 singles on the Country chart in his career, which spanned 35 years. He topped that chart once, in 1973 with “Come Live With Me.”
From the standpoint of the Billboard Top 40 charts, though, Roy Clark is a one-hit wonder. He crossed over in 1969 with “Yesterday, When I Was Young” after just missing in 1963 with “The Tips of My Fingers.” Keep in mind, though, that 1969 is an interesting year on the charts with respect to established Country acts crossing over: there’s plenty of Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash – hell, even Kenny Rogers converted from the acid rock of the First Edition to start twanging a bit. The environment was certainly right for this to be a hit. Couple it with the fact that Charles Aznavour’s lyrics tell a tale of looking back at youth struck a different kind of chord with music fans at the end of the 1960s. The decade that started with Andy Griffith on TV and ended with Laugh-In represented change in so many ways, and a lot of folks felt it. “I used my magic age as if it were a wand/And never saw the waste and emptiness beyond” isn’t just about dating.
Every time I write one of these obit pieces, I am reminded that our time here is temporary. We are merely visiting on this rock. But we feel alive because of the wonderful things we experience, and we feel a connection to those who provide them for us. When one of those people we connect with passes, we are briefly reminded that it won’t all last forever – and we think back to yesterday, when we were young.
See if you feel a little older. You can hear “Yesterday, When I Was Young” by clicking here.