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Mystery And Manners' Honorary Southern Artist Volume 9: Sam Shepard

Posted: Sep 13, 2009

Mystery And Manners’ Honorary Southern Artist Volume 9: Sam Shepard

Born in Illinois, Sam Shepard’s writing, acting and musical instincts rank him as a Mystery and Manners Honorary Southern Artist. His plays such as “Operation Sidewinder”, “The Unseen Hand”, “Killer’s Head”, “Suicide in B Flat”, “Geography of A Horse Dreamer” and “True West” contend as some of the best plays any American writer has written in the last 30 years.

In the late 60s, Shepard played drums in a band called The Holy Modal Rounders that later turned up in the film Easy Rider. Shepard’s interest in theatre led to acting and playwriting where he staked his claim in New York City. His other subterranean classic screenplays include "Paris, Texas", "Zabriskie Point", "Far North" and "Silent Tongue". Most of Shepard’s best works are collected in his inimitable books such as Seven Plays, Motel Chronicles, Fool For Love, Hawk Moon, Simpatico and Cruising Paradise.

Shepard wrote a book called The Rolling Thunder Logbook, which revolved around Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder tour during 1975-1976. Shepard co-wrote “Bownsville Girl” with Dylan on his Knocked Out Loaded album. Shepard conducted one of the best interviews I’ve ever read with Bob Dylan in a 1987 issue of Esquire. Shepard also played a role in Dylan’s unreleased film Renaldo and Clara, and during this time Shepard spent time with Texas guitarist T-Bone Burnett. In 2007, Shepard played banjo on his old friend Patti Smith’s cover of the Nirvana song “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. He’s still got the spirit of an old Indian medicine man…

Shepard’s acting career sustained his ability to keep writing and transformed him into an American original. Some of his notable films include The Right Stuff, Steel Magnolias, Frances, Thunderheart, Black Hawk Down, The Notebook, The Pelican Brief, Don’t Come Knockin’, The Assassination of Jesse James and the 2008 film Felon. Shepard’s vast awards include a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award nomination, countless Obie Awards and two Tony Award nominations to name only a few.

Shepard’s work evoke vivid images of American life. His hatred of flying and love for the open road epitomize his artistic vision as he wrote in “Falling Without End”: “Luckily I love to drive. I’ve learned to love to drive. I love long-distance driving. The farther the better. I love covering immense stretches in one leap: Memphis to New York City; Gallup to L.A.; Saint Paul to Richmond; Lexington to Baton Rouge; Bismark to Cody. Leaps like these. Without a partner. Completely alone. Relentless driving. Driving until the body disappears, the legs fall off, the eyes bleed, the hands go numb, the mind shuts down, and then, suddenly, something new begins to appear…”

James Calemine

 


 

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"How far are we goin'. he asked with a smile We're goin' ALL the way, 'til the wheels fall off and burn." -Brownsville Girl In college my friend Clark and I played Holy Model Rounders records and studied Sam. The best play I ever did was True West. I was Lee and Clark as Austin. I later did Fool for Love as well.... I am a HUGE fan. Thanks for the tip of the hat to a man with a heart as big as Texas and more talent than I can even begin to describe.... very cool...Rock on James!

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