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Billy Joe Shaver, legendary country songwriter, dies at 81

Willie Nelson once called Billy Joe Shaver "the greatest living songwriter," according to Rolling Stone magazine.

WASHINGTON — Billy Joe Shaver, the outlaw country singer and songwriter, has died after a stroke in Waco, Texas, according to reports. He was 81.

Shaver is best known as the songwriter of Waylon Jennings’ album "Honky Tonk Heroes" from 1973. Rolling Stone magazine said he wrote ten out of 11 songs on the album. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson are just some of the artists that recorded his songs.

Willie Nelson said Shaver was "the greatest living songwriter" in 2010, Rolling Stone reported.

Billy Joe Shaver also had his own recording career which included 17 studio albums, according to Variety. The last of which was 2014’s “Long in the Tooth.”

The Corsicana, Texas, native’s Texas roots run deep, according to a release from his last album. His great-great-great-grandfather was Revolutionary War veteran Evan Thomas Watson, one of the founders of the Republic.

Shaver was raised by his grandmother. His publishing company said he sang songs and was inspired in his childhood to keep at it after sneaking out of home one night to catch a country music show where he heard Hank Williams early in his career.

Shaver was given a Gene Autry guitar at age 11 and began playing until his stepfather gave it away a few years later as payment for yard work. Before his music career took off, Shaver had a brief stint in the Navy at age 16, a stab at professional rodeo, and an aforementioned incident losing parts of his fingers, his publicity company said. After that, he took up playing guitar again and devoted himself to songwriting.

Credit: Laura Roberts/Invision/AP
Artist Billy Joe Shaver poses for a backstage portrait following his concert "Billy Joe Shaver presented by WMOT/Roots Radio" at City Winery Nashville on Saturday, April 1, 2017 in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Laura Roberts/Invision/AP)

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