Fifteen Years Ago: Waylon Jennings Passes Away
On this day (Feb. 13th) in 2002, Waylon Arnold Jennings passed away from complications from diabetes. He was 64 years old.
If any one performer personified the outlaw country movement of the ’70s, it was Waylon Jennings. Though he had been a professional musician since the late ’50s, it wasn’t until the ’70s that Waylon, with his imposing baritone and stripped-down, updated honky tonk, became a superstar. Jennings rejected the conventions of Nashville, refusing to record with the industry’s legions of studio musicians and insisting that his music never resemble the string-laden, pop-inflected sounds that were coming out of Nashville in the ’60s and ’70s. Many artists, including Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, followed Waylon’s anti-Nashville stance and eventually the whole “outlaw” movement — so-named because of the artists’ ragged, maverick image and their independence from Nashville — became one of the most significant country forces of the ’70s, helping the genre adhere to its hardcore honky tonk roots. Jennings didn’t write many songs, but his music — which combined the grittiest aspects of honky tonk with a rock & roll rhythm and attitude, making the music spare, direct, and edgy — defined hardcore country, and it influenced countless musicians, including members of the new traditionalist and alternative country subgenres of the ’80s.
Jennings passed away in his sleep at his home. He was survived by his wife, Jessi Colter, and son, Shooter Jennings.
February 13th, 2017