Jerry Jeff Walker, Mr. Bojangles writer and outlaw country pioneer, dies at 78

The musician was diagnosed with throat cancer back in 2017.

Jerry Jeff Walker onstage

Photo: Erika Goldring / Getty Images

Jerry Jeff Walker, the country music pioneer best known for penning the song Mr. Bojangles, has died from cancer. He was 78.

Walker’s wife, Susan Walker, confirmed the news of her husband’s death to the Statesman. The musician died from throat cancer at the Dell Seton Medical Center at the University Of Texas. She said that Walker “went very peacefully” and that he was “at home until an hour before his passing”.

Walker’s most famously penned tuned, Mr. Bojangles, was written in 1968 and was popularised in a cover by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1970. Other artists who have covered the tune include Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond, Nina Simone, King Curtis, and Sammy Davis Jr.

After honing his craft in the folk music scene in New York’s Greenwich Village in the 60s, Walker moved to Austin, Texas in 1970, where he, alongside musicians like Willie Nelson, helped propel the outlaw country genre to popularity.

Country and blues musicians have taken to social media to pay their respects to the late country pioneer.

Jason Isbell tweeted: “One day I’d like to be an old man who dances onstage like John Prine and Jerry Jeff Walker.” Prine died in April from COVID-19.

Jimmy Buffett shared: “In such a hurtful moment, I have to say that I am SO happy that he drove me to Key West. That lanky frame, cowboy hat, that energy, voice, those songs, wry wit and wonderful laugh will be with me forever.”

During his 51-year recording career, Walker released 36 albums. His last record About Time, was released in 2018, a year after his cancer diagnosis.

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