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Country singer Jerry Jeff Walker, who wrote Mr. Bojangles, dies aged 78

Legendary country star Jerry Jeff Walker has died aged 78.

The singer songwriter, who wrote late-’60s hit Mr. Bojangles, passed away on Friday, CNY News reported.

He had battled throat cancer three years ago and subsequently wrote the 2018 album It’s About Time.

Country legend: Country icon Jerry Jeff Walker, who wrote Mr. Bojangles, died on Friday aged 78

Country legend: Country icon Jerry Jeff Walker, who wrote Mr. Bojangles, died on Friday aged 78

Country legend: Country icon Jerry Jeff Walker, who wrote Mr. Bojangles, died on Friday aged 78

Born Ronald Clyde Crosby, Walker grew up in a musical family in Oneonta, New York and got his start in the Greenwich Village folk scene in the 1960s. 

The singer was inspired to write Mr. Bojangles, one of the most iconic country/ pop songs ever written, after spending time in a drunk tank with a New Orleans street performer. 

It became his signature song and it was covered by many artists throughout the years including Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond.

In the 1970s he shifted to Texas where he married his manager Susan in 1974 and became part of the outlaw country scene.

Jerry had been singing since his teen years in a Oneonta band called The Tones, which embarked on a failed audition for American Bandstand.

He shared in a Live Nation interview that he ‘couldn’t wait to get going’ and escape his sleepy small-town early life.

‘As a friend of mine said, the morning after I graduated was the first morning I ever got up early,’ he said with a laugh. ‘I was ready to get going!’

After a brief stint in the National Guard when he was fresh out of high school he became a traveling musician around the United States.

Eventually he settled into the Greenwich Village music scene of the 1960s and recorded the album Mr. Bojangles with the iconic song of the same name.

Jerry also became a legendary party animal known as the ‘Rowdy Raconteur,’ joking at one point that ‘I’ve personally driven half my fans home.’ 

For much of his life he lived in Austin, telling The Next Waltz a few years ago: ‘The reason I stay here is because of my wife. She’s as happy as she can be. She has the house she wanted in Austin. My kids like it too, so I’m sort of there.’

Jerry, whose most famous albums include Viva Terlingua,  

He is survived by Susan and their children – daughter Jessie Jane and son and fellow musician Django Walker.

His death brought an outpouring of tributes on social media including from Tom Arnold who shared a funny anecdote.

‘Jerry Jeff Walker passed. Great songwriter, soulful voice, respected by peers & funny. 30 years ago Roseanne wanted to sing Mr Bojangles in an HBO Special They said no that would disrespect Jerry. I called Jerry & he said he’d also written “Pissing in the wind”so why the hell not,’ he dished.

Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote on his own Twitter page: ‘Farewell to Jerry Jeff Walker, author of the 70s standard “Mr. Bojangles” and a pioneering Texas country outlaw whose 1973 LP Viva Terlingua is a classic. I’m also quite fond of his rowdy 1989 single “Trashy Women.”‘

‘R.I.P. Jerry Jeff Walker. Live Forever…. #RIP #jerryjeffwalker #mrbojangles #americansongwriter #liveforever #vivaterlingua #gonzo #troubadour,’ wrote country singer Dallas Moore on his social media. 

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