RIP Susanna Clark (March 11, 1939 - June 27, 2012)

I've gotten many sweet condolence calls and messages about Susanna Clark's death, yet I don't feel worthy of them. I'm not a close family friend. I was Guy's publicist until I started working on his biography, but even then, I was Guy's publicist, not Susanna's.

Now, I'm the biographer.  At an authors panel earlier this year at Folk Alliance someone from the audience asked the panel if it was easier to write about someone while they were still alive or better if the subject was dead. All of the authors—at the exact same moment—shouted "Dead!" Sitting in the audience, I shook my head no, felt that I was the lucky one because my subject is alive and interested and engaging and boy, oh, boy I'm going to have a great book because Guy is in this with me. 

Guy might be in it with me, but Susanna? I did not know Susanna well. I know plenty about her because I've been researching her life for the last four years.  In total, I have 6 hours of interview tape with Susanna, plus another several hours that other journalists have shared with me, not to mention the hours and hours that Guy and I have discussed her. I don't know Susanna the woman nearly as well as I know Susanna the subject.  And today, well, intellectually, I don't think I should be surprised by Susanna's death, yet, I am. I am stunned that she is gone.

Two weeks ago I spent an afternoon with Guy and Susanna. It was a rare day when Susanna's caretaker was not there. The house was strangely quiet with just Guy and Susanna spending the day at home like an old married couple. 

I went over to Guy and Susanna's to drop off archives that Guy had shared with me and I had not intended on interviewing either Guy or Susanna that day.  When I walked into the house, I asked Guy if I should put away the photos and clippings he had given me. Guy said, "Nah, let's put them on the dining room table and maybe Susanna will want to look through some of it." 

For the next several hours, Guy, Susanna and I looked through photos. I turned on my tape recorder and Susanna—more lucid and animated than I had seen her in years— told me story after story about her family history. She talked about her parents, her siblings, and her first husband. Then she turned to stories about she and Guy in the early years, and Townes, and her songwriting partners and then talked about Rodney and Emmylou and the large circle of friends she and Guy have cultivated in their 40 year marriage. 

Eventually, she tired, and while Guy was on the phone in the kitchen Susanna asked me to help her to bed.  In our last few minutes together, Susanna said: "Tamara, you've got a big job on your hands to write this book."  I said, "Yes, I know, but it's fun." Susanna laughed, raised her eyebrows and said "Fun!?"  Then she sort of chuckled to herself and asked me to lift her legs up on to the bed and under the covers.  I tucked her in the way I tucked in my daughter when she was small. I returned to the dining room and Guy and I waited for his high school friend from Rockport to show up.  

Susanna got up once when Guy's friends were there, said a quick hello and then Guy took her back to the bedroom to help her back in bed. As he came out of the room and closed the door he called back to her, "You just sleep, Baby, I'll take care of everything here."

It was an endearing moment and a sweet afternoon.

The day she died, I listened to some of my interview MP3s and hearing Susanna's voice brought tears to my eyes.  I don't know what Guy's day-to-day life will be like without Susanna.  Guy and Susanna have a fascinating and enduring love story and to write honestly about Guy, one must equally consider Susanna's life. 

I wish I had more time to consider it while Susanna was still alive. Yet, I think my time with Susanna two weeks ago was a gift from the universe.  A gift that I may not be able to fully appreciate during the initial shock of her death...but I will not take it for granted.  Susanna and I were not what I would call friends but she was in my life for what I believe to be an important reason.  

Rest in peace, dear Susanna. You will be missed.


(Photo by Burton Wilson - Susanna in 1973)

Views: 10025

Tags: Clark, Crowell, Emmylou, Guy, Harris, Rodney, Susanna

Comment by Terry Roland on July 5, 2012 at 6:29am

Than you for sharing this Tamara. My prayers are with you and with Guy.

Comment by Tamara Saviano on July 5, 2012 at 7:59am

Thanks Terry.  Guy seems to be doing pretty well.  He is relieved that Susanna is no longer suffering.

Comment by Tim M. Otto on July 5, 2012 at 9:43am

When I saw a post on Facebook by Jubal Young about Susanna I didn't realize it was Guy's wife until I read your blog. Of course I know who she is through "Heartworn Highways" & "Be Here To Love Me." Thanks for sharing your story about the Clarks with us and good luck with your book.

Comment by Mark W. Lennon on July 5, 2012 at 10:11am

Thank you

Comment by Arlene on July 5, 2012 at 11:01am

Thanks again for sharing.

At a concert last week in Minnesota, Emmylou sang  "Even Cowgirls  Get the Blues;" others probably know this but Emmylou then explained that Rodney Crowell had told her that she and Susanna Clark were his inspriations for that song. I'd heard her say that once before in concert and then add: "But we think he probably says that to all the girls."  My guess is that he doesn't....

Comment by Tamara Saviano on July 5, 2012 at 11:03am

I've got amazing interviews with Rodney about his relationship with Susanna.  They were great friends.

Comment by Kyla Fairchild on July 5, 2012 at 1:32pm

This is beautiful Tamara. I'm sorry for your loss. Can't wait to read your book when it's finished.

Comment by Steve Ford on July 5, 2012 at 3:09pm

Thanks, Tamara. I so look forward to your book.

Comment by Turnstyled, Junkpiled on July 5, 2012 at 3:54pm

Well done, as always. Beautifully said. Thanks for sharing, Tamara. And good to know Guy is doing well under the circumstances.

Looking forward to the definitive bio.

- Courtney

Comment by Jamie on July 6, 2012 at 3:03pm

"You just sleep, Baby, I'll take care of everything here."  Reading that literally made me weep.  I think partly because it took me straight back to my mother's last words to my Dad.  He died on the morning of their 50th wedding anniversary, and she hugged him and said "My Darling, you have given me the most wonderful 50 years, you're free to go now".

Thank you for sharing that moment and your words.  I feel deeply for Guy's loss.  I hope the love and solace that he has provided us all with over the years is flowing back towards him now.

Purely by coincidence I have listened several times in the last week to him singing Townes's "To Live Is To Fly", a song I want played at my funeral.

At times like this, New Zealand Maori say "Kia Kaha" – Stand Tall


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.