Just a few days after his sold-out Songwriter Rendezvous show at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas last Thursday, songwriter Jimmy LaFave, 61, died on Sunday May 21.
LaFave passed away after a battle with cancer in his home, surrounded by friends and family. His record company, Music Road, confirmed his death.
According to the Austin Chronicle, LaFave’s illness, a sarcoma affecting his lungs, had been a secret until recently. Last month, LaFave’s family confirmed that they had finally engaged hospice care.
“I’m a dead man walking,” LaFave said in an interview with Playback last year, “but I’m going to go out in the presence of laughter, music, and friends.”
More than 1,000 people attended a sold-out concert Thursday night at Austin’s Paramount Theater to honor LaFave, who reportedly attended using a wheelchair.
LaFave was born in Wills Point, 49 miles east of Dallas on U.S. Highway 80 in Van Zandt county. LaFave spent his preschool years in the town, after which he and his family moved to Mesquite, before moving yet again to the red-dirt hills of Oklahoma, where he developed his music. One critic dubbed LaFave “the red-dirt Van Morrison.”
LaFave studied the work of Woody Guthrie, who grew up in the red-dirt hamlet of Okemah, Oklahoma. In 1996, Norah Guthrie invited LaFave to appear at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tribute to her father and at her father’s 1997 induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. LaFave also became a fan of Bob Dylan, covering many of his songs. LaFave’s version of ‘Not Dark Yet’ appeared on the soundtrack of the Showtime series, Californication
Guests at LaFave’s farewell concert on May 18 included Christine Albert, Sarah Lee Guthrie, John Fullbright, Shinyribs, Butch Hancock, and Ruthie Foster. LaFave led the finale of ‘Goodnight Irene.’