Country Outlaw Billy Joe Shaver Dies At 81

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Billy Joe Shaver, a country singer-songwriter whose songs were recorded by singers like Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, died Wednesday in a Waco, Texas hospital after suffering a massive stroke. He was 81.

“I’m a songwriter first and then whatever else I do second,” Shaver told Rolling Stone in 2014. “I enjoy the heck out of entertaining and I enjoy all the aspects of what comes with it, but the song is like the cheapest psychiatrist there is. And I pretty much need one all the time.”

Shaver’s debut album Old Five and Dimers Like Me came out in 1973 and was followed by 16 more. His Grammy-nominated 2007 album Everybody’s Brother featured duets with Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Tanya Tucker.

His final album, 2014’s Long in the Tooth, was his first to make it on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart.

"Billy Joe opened for me on one of my early tours and was always amazing," Travis Tritt tweeted. "His stories were captivating. He will be sorely missed." Canadian comedian Norm Macdonald remembered his friend as "a real life world-shaker all right, and his talent was matched only by his integrity."

Shaver, who was the subject of the 2004 documentary The Portrait of Billy Joe, was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

His personal life was tumultuous. He married and divorced one woman three times and another woman twice; lost two fingers in a sawmill accident; suffered a heart attack on stage and lost his son, guitarist Eddy Shaver, to a heroin overdose.

In 2007, Shaver shot a man in the face outside a bar in Lorena, Texas after asking him “Where do you want it?” He was later acquitted after claiming he acted in self-defence.

“He was one of the only people that really lived the life of an outlaw,” tweeted Margo Price. “He was the honky tonk hero. He was a hillbilly poet.”

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