Gene Clark

Gene Clark, born Harold Eugene Clark (born Tipton, Missouri, November 17, 1944[1] - May 24, 1991) was an American singer-songwriter, and one of the founding members of the folk-rock group The Byrds.

Gene Clark is best remembered for being The Byrds main songwriter between 1964 and 1966. He created a large catalogue of music in several genres but failed to achieve solo commercial success. Clark was one of the earliest exponents of psychedelic rock, baroque pop, newgrass, country rock and alternative country.


Early life

Born in Tipton, Missouri, the third of thirteen children, Clark began learning the guitar from his father at age nine and was soon picking out Hank Williams tunes as well as material by early rockers such as Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers. Before long he was writing his own songs and, at 13, joined a local Rock & Roll combo, Joe Meyers and the Sharks. Like many of his generation, Clark developed an interest in folk music because of the popularity of the Kingston Trio. Clark graduated from Bonner Springs High School in Bonner Springs, Kansas in 1962.

Formation of The Byrds

He began performing with several folk groups working out of Kansas City at the Castaways Lounge, owned by Hal Harbaum, where he was discovered by the New Christy Minstrels, in August 1963, who hired him for their ensemble and with whom he remained for six months. After hearing the Beatles, Clark quit the Christys and moved to Los Angeles where he met fellow folkie/Beatles convert Jim (later Roger) McGuinn at the Troubadour Club and in early 1964 they began to assemble a band that would become The Byrds.

Gene Clark wrote many of The Byrds' best-known originals, including: "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better", "Set You Free This Time", "Here Without You", "If You're Gone", "The World Turns All Around Her", "She Don't Care About Time" and "Eight Miles High". He played harmonica for the band, too (notably on "Set You Free This Time"). Bassist Chris Hillman noted years later in various interviews remembering Gene: "People don't give enough credit to Gene Clark. He came up with the most incredible lyrics. I don't think I appreciated Gene Clark as a songwriter until the last two years. He was awesome! He was heads above us! Roger wrote some great songs then, but Gene was coming up with lyrics that were way beyond what he was. He wasn't a well-read man in that sense, but he would come up with these beautiful phrases. A very poetic man--very, very productive. He would write two or three great songs a week". "He was the songwriter. He had the "gift" that none of the rest of us had developed yet.... What deep inner part of his soul conjured up songs like "Set You Free," "Feel A Whole Lot Better," "I'm Feelin' Higher," "Eight Miles High"? So many great songs! We learned a lot of songwriting from him and in the process learned a little bit about ourselves. At one time, he was the power in the Byrds, not McGuinn, not Crosby -- it was Gene who would burst through the stage curtain banging on a tambourine, coming on like a young Prince Valiant. A hero, our savior. Few in the audience could take their eyes off this presence."

A management decision delivered the lead vocal duties to McGuinn for their major singles and Dylan covers. This disappointment, combined with Clark's dislike of traveling (including a chronic fear of flying) and resentment by other band members about the extra income he derived from his songwriting, led to internal squabbling and he left the group in early 1966. He briefly returned to Kansas City before moving back to Los Angeles to form Gene Clark & the Group with Chip Douglas, Joel Larson, and Bill Rhinehart.

Solo career and rejoining The Byrds

Columbia Records, (the Byrds' record label), signed Clark as a solo artist and, in 1967, he released his first solo LP, Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, a mixture of pop, country rock and baroque-psychedelic tracks. The record received favourable reviews but unfortunately for Clark, it was released almost simultaneously with the Byrds' Younger Than Yesterday, also on Columbia, and (partly due to his 18 month-long public absence) was a commercial failure. With the future of his solo career in doubt, Clark briefly rejoined the Byrds in 1967 as a replacement for the recently-departed David Crosby but left after only 3 weeks following a panic attack in Minneapolis.

In 1968, Clark signed with the artist-friendly A&M Records and began a collaboration with Laramy Smith recording a number of songs including "Los Angeles", which later featured on the 'Flying High" double cd released on A&M in 1998. Phoenix disbanded when Clark and Smith could not agree on a common style.[2][3] Following the break up, Clark formed Dillard & Clark with banjo player Doug Dillard. With guitarist Bernie Leadon (later with The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Eagles), they produced two country rock and bluegrass-flavored albums: The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark and Through the Morning Through the Night, both of which fared poorly on the charts but were praised by critics. In 1969 a single was released, "Lyin Down The Middle". Through the Morning Through the Night was more bluegrass in character than its predecessor, used electric instrumentation and included Donna Washburn (Dillard's girlfriend) as a backing vocalist, all of which contributed to the departure of Bernie Leadon. The loss of Leadon as a co-writer meant that the album featured more covers than originals and the change of musical direction caused Clark to lose faith in the group, which disbanded in late 1969. In hindsight, Dillard & Clark, together with The Flying Burrito Brothers, Buffalo Springfield, Poco and The Byrds can be credited as prime influences on later soft Country rock performers such as The Eagles, Pure Prairie League and Firefall.

In 1970, Clark began work on a new single, recording two tracks with the original members of the Byrds (each recording his part separately). The resulting songs, "She's The Kind Of Girl" and "One in a Hundred", were not released at the time due to legal problems and were included later on Roadmaster. Frustrated with the music industry, Clark bought a home at Albion near Mendocino, married, and fathered two children while living off his still substantial Byrds royalties.

In 1970 and 1971, Clark contributed vocals and two compositions ("Tried So Hard" and "Here Tonight") to albums by the Flying Burrito Brothers.

White Light

It wasn't until 1971 that a further Gene Clark solo set finally emerged. The album was titled White Light on the actual record, although the fact that the name was not included on the cover sleeve led some later reviewers to assume mistakenly that it was titled 'Gene Clark'. The record was produced by the much sought after Native American guitarist Jesse Ed Davis with whom Clark developed great rapport, partly due to their common Indian ancestry. A largely-acoustic work supplemented by slide guitar work by Davis, the album contained many introspective tracks such as "With Tomorrow", "Because of You", " Where My Love Lies Asleep" and "For a Spanish Guitar" (supposedly hailed by Bob Dylan as a song he would have been proud to compose). All of the material was written by Clark, with the exception of the Dylan number "Tears of Rage". Launched to considerable critical acclaim, the LP failed to gain commercial success, except in the Netherlands where it was also voted album of the year by rock music critics. Once more, Clark's refusal to undertake promotional touring adversely affected sales.

In the spring of 1971, Clark was commissioned by Dennis Hopper to contribute the tracks "American Dreamer" and "Outlaw Song" to Hopper's film project, "American Dreamer".

A re-recorded, longer version of the song "American Dreamer" was later used in the 1977 film "The Farmer", along with an instrumental version of the same song plus "Outside the Law (The Outlaw)" (a re-recording of "Outlaw Song").

In 1972, Clark assembled a backing group consisting of highly accomplished country rock musicians to accompany him on a further album with A&M. Progress was slow and expensive and the project was terminated before completion by A&M. The resulting eight tracks, together with those recorded with The Byrds in 1970/71 and another with The Flying Burrito Brothers ("Here Tonight"), were belatedly released as Roadmaster in the Netherlands only.

In 1972, the Dillard & Clark song "Through The Morning Through The Night" was used in Quincy Jones's soundtrack of the Sam Peckinpah movie The Getaway.


Clark then left A&M to rejoin the original Byrds and cut the album Byrds (released in 1973) which charted well (US # 20). Clark's compositions "Full Circle" and "Changing Heart" plus the Neil Young covers on which he did the lead vocal work ("See The Sky About To Rain" and "Cowgirl In The Sand") were widely regarded as the standout tracks on a record which received some negative critical response. Disheartened by the bad reviews and unhappy with David Crosby's performance as the record's producer, the group members chose to dissolve The Byrds. Clark briefly joined McGuinn's solo group, with which he premiered "Silver Raven", arguably his most celebrated post-Byrds opus.

No Other

On the basis of the quality of Clark's Byrds contributions, David Geffen signed him to Asylum Records in early 1974. Asylum was the home of the most prominent exponents of the singer-songwriter movement of the era and carried the kind of hip cachet that Clark hadn't experienced since his days with The Byrds. He retired to Mendocino and spent long periods at the picture window of his friend (and future co-writer and drummer) Andy Kandanes' cliff-top home with a notebook and acoustic guitar in hand, staring at the Pacific Ocean. Deeply affected by his visions, he composed numerous songs which would serve as the basis for his only Asylum LP, the aptly titled No Other. Produced by Thomas Jefferson Kaye with a vast array of session musicians and backing singers, the album was an amalgam of country rock, folk, gospel, soul and choral music with poetic, mystical lyrics. The fact that No Other wasn't a conventional pop/rock opus meant that its chances of success were greatly minimised by Clark's relative obscurity. Furthermore, its production costs of $100,000 which yielded only eight tracks prompted Geffen to berate Clark and Kaye. The album then stalled in the charts at #144. On a more personal note, the singer's return to Los Angeles and his reversion to a hedonistic lifestyle resulted in the disintegration of his marriage. In spite of these setbacks, he mounted his first solo tour (by road) , playing colleges and clubs with backing group, the Silverados.

Two Sides to Every Story

Throughout 1975 and 1976, Clark hinted to the press that he was assembling a set of "cosmic Motown" songs fusing country-rock with R&B and funk, elaborating on the soundscapes of No Other. A set of ten demos were submitted to RSO Records, who promptly bought out Clark's contract.

In 1977, Clark released his RSO Records debut entitled Two Sides to Every Story. Once again produced by Thomas Jefferson Kaye but with a much more understated hand, the record was another characteristic offering of his style of sensitive country-rock balladry but failed to achieve US chart success. In a belated attempt to find an appreciative public, he temporarily overcame his fear of flying and launched an international promotional tour.

McGuinn, Clark and Hillman

For his British tour dates, Clark found himself on the same bill as ex-Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman. The three signed with Capitol Records which released their self-titled debut in 1979. McGuinn, Clark and Hillman was a rebirth in both performing and songwriting for Clark. McGuinn's "Don't You Write Her Off" reached #33 in April 1979. Many felt that the album's slick production and disco rhythms didn't flatter the group, and the album had mixed success both critically and commercially, but it sold enough to generate a follow up. McGuinn, Clark and Hillman's second release was to have been a full group effort entitled City, but a combination of Clark's unreliability and his dissatisfaction with their musical direction (mostly regarding Ron and Howard Albert's production) resulted in the billing change on City to "Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, featuring Gene Clark". Despite the turmoil, Clark penned a classic love song, "Won't Let You Down", rumoured to have been offered as an olive branch to the other former Byrds. By 1981, Clark had left, and the group recorded one more album as "McGuinn/Hillman".

Rehabilitation, Firebyrd, and So Rebellious a Lover

Clark moved to Hawaii with Jesse Ed Davis to try to overcome his drug dependency, remaining there until the end of 1981. Upon his return to L.A., he assembled a new band and proceeded to record what would eventually become the album Firebyrd (the title acknowledges the Byrds and Firefall origins of some members). While waiting for Firebyrd to be released, Clark joined up with Chris Hillman and others in an abortive venture called Flyte which failed to secure a recording contract and was quickly dissolved. Firebyrd's eventual release in 1984 coincided with the emergence of jangle rockers like R.E.M. and Tom Petty who had sparked a new interest in the Byrds. Clark began developing new fans among L.A.'s roots-conscious paisley underground scene. Later in the decade, he embraced his new status by appearing as a guest with The Long Ryders and by cutting a duo album with Carla Olson of the Textones titled So Rebellious a Lover in 1986.

Later career, illness and death

So Rebellious a Lover became a modest commercial success, but Clark began to develop serious health problems; he had ulcers, aggravated by years of heavy drinking (often used to alleviate his chronic travel anxiety), and in 1988 he underwent surgery, during which much of his stomach and intestines had to be removed. A period of abstinence and recovery followed until Tom Petty's cover of "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better," on his 1989 album Full Moon Fever, yielded a huge amount of royalty money to Clark who quickly reverted to drug and alcohol abuse. The Byrds set aside their differences long enough to appear together at their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in January 1991, where the original lineup played a few songs together, including Clark's "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better." However, Clark's health continued to decline as his drinking accelerated and on May 24, 1991, he died at the age of 46 of a heart attack. He was buried in Tipton under a simple headstone inscribed "Harold Eugene Clark - No Other."


Studio Albums

* Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers (1967)
* The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark (1968) – with Doug Dillard
* Through the Morning, Through the Night (1969) – with Doug Dillard
* White Light a.k.a. Gene Clark (1971)
* Roadmaster (1972)
* No Other (1974)
* Two Sides to Every Story (1977)
* McGuinn, Clark & Hillman (1978) – with Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman
* City (1980) – with Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman
* Firebyrd (1984)
* So Rebellious a Lover (1987) – with Carla Olson

Live albums

* Silhouetted in Light (1992) – with Carla Olson
* In Concert (2007) – with Carla Olson
* Silverado '75 - Live & Unreleased (2008)


* Echoes (1991) – collection of early material recorded with The Byrds and the Gosdin Brothers
* American Dreamer 1964-1974 (1993) – best of
* Flying High (1998) – anthology
* Gypsy Angel (2001) – collection of previously unreleased material
* Under the Silvery Moon (2003) – collection of previously unreleased material

Covered songs

During his career and subsequent to his death, Gene Clark's songs have been covered by a number of artists. Ian Matthews was an early promoter of Clark's songs, covering "Polly" on Matthews' 1972 Journeys from Gospel Oak album, and "Tried So Hard" on his 1974 Some Days You Eat The Bear album. Death In Vegas and Paul Weller covered his song "So You Say You Lost Your Baby" on their 2003 album Scorpio Rising. Shady (David Baker & friends) covered Life's Greatest Fool on their album 'World'. In 2007, two of his songs were recorded by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant on the T-Bone Burnett produced Raising Sand: "Polly Come Home" and "Through the Morning, Through the Night." Also in 2007, Chris and Rich Robinson released a live version of "Polly" on their Brothers of a Feather: Live at the Roxy album. This Mortal Coil covered "Strength of Strings" from his LP No Other and "With Tomorrow" from LP White light.

Song lyric No Other NO OTHER Gene Clark
Song lyric With Tomorrow WITH TOMORROW Gene Clark
Song lyric One In A Hundred ONE IN A HUNDRED Gene Clark
Song lyric The Virgin THE VIRGIN Gene Clark
Song lyric Silver Raven SILVER RAVEN Gene Clark
Song lyric White Light WHITE LIGHT Gene Clark
Song lyric Life's Greatest Fool LIFE'S GREATEST FOOL Gene Clark
Song lyric Because Of You BECAUSE OF YOU Gene Clark
Song lyric Tears Of Rage TEARS OF RAGE Gene Clark
Song lyric Strength Of Strings STRENGTH OF STRINGS Gene Clark
Song lyric Where My Love Lies Asleep WHERE MY LOVE LIES ASLEEP Gene Clark
Song lyric Some Misunderstanding SOME MISUNDERSTANDING Gene Clark
Song lyric Echoes ECHOES Gene Clark
Song lyric Lady Of The North LADY OF THE NORTH Gene Clark
Song lyric The True One THE TRUE ONE Gene Clark
Song lyric I Found You I FOUND YOU Gene Clark
Song lyric Needing Someone NEEDING SOMEONE Gene Clark
Song lyric Winter In WINTER IN Gene Clark
Song lyric Set You Free This Time SET YOU FREE THIS TIME Gene Clark
Song lyric Tried So Hard TRIED SO HARD Gene Clark
Song lyric Here Without You HERE WITHOUT YOU Gene Clark
Song lyric For Me Again FOR ME AGAIN Gene Clark
Song lyric Stand By Me STAND BY ME Gene Clark
Song lyric Boston BOSTON Gene Clark
Song lyric So You Say You Lost Your Baby SO YOU SAY YOU LOST YOUR BABY Gene Clark
Song lyric Ship Of The Lord SHIP OF THE LORD Gene Clark
Song lyric Train Leaves Here This Morning TRAIN LEAVES HERE THIS MORNING Gene Clark
Song lyric Full Circle Song FULL CIRCLE SONG Gene Clark
Song lyric She's The Kind Of Girl SHE'S THE KIND OF GIRL Gene Clark
Song lyric She Don't Care About Time SHE DON'T CARE ABOUT TIME Gene Clark
Song lyric In A Misty Morning IN A MISTY MORNING Gene Clark
Song lyric Rodeo Rider RODEO RIDER Gene Clark
Song lyric Think I'm Gonna Feel Better THINK I'M GONNA FEEL BETTER Gene Clark
Song lyric Is Yours Is Mine IS YOURS IS MINE Gene Clark
Song lyric Elevator Operator ELEVATOR OPERATOR Gene Clark
Song lyric Los Angeles LOS ANGELES Gene Clark
Song lyric I Remember The Railroad I REMEMBER THE RAILROAD Gene Clark
Song lyric Keep On Pushin' KEEP ON PUSHIN' Gene Clark
Song lyric The Same One THE SAME ONE Gene Clark
Song lyric Couldn't Believe Her COULDN'T BELIEVE HER Gene Clark
Song lyric Opening Day OPENING DAY Gene Clark
Song lyric Here Tonight HERE TONIGHT Gene Clark
Song lyric Kansas City Southern KANSAS CITY SOUTHERN Gene Clark
Song lyric Roadmaster ROADMASTER Gene Clark
Song lyric All I Want ALL I WANT Gene Clark
Song lyric Back In My Life Again BACK IN MY LIFE AGAIN Gene Clark
Song lyric Blue Raven BLUE RAVEN Gene Clark
Song lyric C'est La Bon Rue C'EST LA BON RUE Gene Clark
Song lyric Changes CHANGES Gene Clark
Song lyric Crazy Ladies CRAZY LADIES Gene Clark
Song lyric Dark Hollow DARK HOLLOW Gene Clark
Song lyric Dark Of My Moon DARK OF MY MOON Gene Clark
Song lyric Day For Night DAY FOR NIGHT Gene Clark
Song lyric Dixie Flyer DIXIE FLYER Gene Clark
Song lyric Fair & Tender Ladies FAIR & TENDER LADIES Gene Clark
Song lyric Feel A Whole Lot Better FEEL A WHOLE LOT BETTER Gene Clark
Song lyric For A Spanish Guitar FOR A SPANISH GUITAR Gene Clark
Song lyric Freedom Walk FREEDOM WALK Gene Clark
Song lyric From A Silver Phial FROM A SILVER PHIAL Gene Clark
Song lyric Git It On Brother GIT IT ON BROTHER Gene Clark
Song lyric Give My Love To Marie GIVE MY LOVE TO MARIE Gene Clark
Song lyric Gypsy Rider GYPSY RIDER Gene Clark
Song lyric Hear The Wind HEAR THE WIND Gene Clark
Song lyric Home Run King HOME RUN KING Gene Clark
Song lyric I Knew I'd Want You [remix] I KNEW I'D WANT YOU [REMIX] Gene Clark
Song lyric I Pity The Poor Immigrant I PITY THE POOR IMMIGRANT Gene Clark
Song lyric I Really Don't Want To Know I REALLY DON'T WANT TO KNOW Gene Clark
Song lyric If You Could Read My Mind IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND Gene Clark
Song lyric If You're Gone IF YOU'RE GONE Gene Clark
Song lyric In The Pines IN THE PINES Gene Clark
Song lyric Kathleen KATHLEEN Gene Clark
Song lyric Lonely Saturday LONELY SATURDAY Gene Clark
Song lyric Love Wins Again LOVE WINS AGAIN Gene Clark
Song lyric Made For Love MADE FOR LOVE Gene Clark
Song lyric Marylou MARYLOU Gene Clark
Song lyric Mississippi Detention Camp MISSISSIPPI DETENTION CAMP Gene Clark
Song lyric No Longer A Sweetheart Of Mine NO LONGER A SWEETHEART OF MINE Gene Clark
Song lyric Only Colombe ONLY COLOMBE Gene Clark
Song lyric Past Adresses PAST ADRESSES Gene Clark
Song lyric Pledge To You PLEDGE TO YOU Gene Clark
Song lyric Polly POLLY Gene Clark
Song lyric Rain Song RAIN SONG Gene Clark
Song lyric Rock Of Ages ROCK OF AGES Gene Clark
Song lyric Rough And Rocky ROUGH AND ROCKY Gene Clark
Song lyric Shooting Star SHOOTING STAR Gene Clark
Song lyric Silent Crusade SILENT CRUSADE Gene Clark
Song lyric Sister Moon SISTER MOON Gene Clark
Song lyric Something About You Baby SOMETHING ABOUT YOU BABY Gene Clark
Song lyric Something's Wrong SOMETHING'S WRONG Gene Clark
Song lyric Tambourine Man TAMBOURINE MAN Gene Clark
Song lyric That's Alright By Me THAT'S ALRIGHT BY ME Gene Clark
Song lyric The American Dreamer THE AMERICAN DREAMER Gene Clark
Song lyric The French Girl THE FRENCH GIRL Gene Clark
Song lyric The Radio Song THE RADIO SONG Gene Clark
Song lyric Through The Morning, Through The Night THROUGH THE MORNING, THROUGH THE NIGHT Gene Clark
Song lyric Vanessa VANESSA Gene Clark
Song lyric Wall Around Your Heart WALL AROUND YOUR HEART Gene Clark
Song lyric Why Not Your Baby WHY NOT YOUR BABY Gene Clark
Song lyric You Showed Me YOU SHOWED ME Gene Clark
Song lyric Your Fire Burning YOUR FIRE BURNING Gene Clark