Music

Flashback: Robert Duvall Sings Billy Joe Shaver's 'Live Forever' in 'Crazy Heart'

Associated Press/ Laura Roberts/Invision/AP

The music world is mourning the loss of Billy Joe Shaver, a pioneer of the outlaw country movement and one of the most revered country music singer-songwriters of the last century. Shaver, who penned the majority of the songs on Waylon Jennings' classic 1973 album Honky Tonk Heroes, died on Wednesday, Oct. 28 in Waco, Texas after suffering a stroke.

Though each of Shaver's songs was marked with a piece of his soul, "Live Forever," first recorded for Shaver's 1993 album Tramp on Your Street and again on 1998's Victory, carries a significant weight. The song, a testament to Shaver's unwavering faith, was a staple of the Texas troubadour's live shows and a signature tune for the legend.

"Live Forever" was a perfect fit for the 2009 film Crazy Heart, starring Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake, a 57-year-old country singer whose career has been on the decline. In the film, which won Bridges an Academy Award for Best Actor, Robert Duvall sings an a cappella version of the song during a pivotal scene.

"You remind me of a song by Billy Joe Shaver," Duvall's character says in the film. "'I'm gonna live forever, I'm gonna cross that river. I'm gonna catch tomorrow now.'"

Though the Thomas Cobb novel the film was based on was inspired by the life of country singer Hank Thompson, it's hard to watch writer-director Scott Cooper's movie without thinking about Shaver. In one scene, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a reporter writing a story on Bad Blake, muses to the artist, "You played a gospel song in a bar." Blake, who is responsible for the success of his former protege Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), spends his days traveling to dive bars and bowling alleys in his 1977 Chevrolet Suburban. Shaver, a favorite songwriter of both Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, spent much of his own career traveling from gig to gig in a van while the songs he wrote for others helped usher in a new era of country music.

Even Shaver himself saw his life reflected in Crazy Heart, particularly when Bad Blake is seen traveling with a plastic bottle he uses to relieve himself on the road and avoid bathroom breaks.

"I didn't think anybody knew about that," Shaver told the Kansas City Star in 2010. "But Robert Duvall is one of the guys that produced that thing, and I am sure that is where it came from." (Quote via The Boot.)

Read More: The 10 Best Billy Joe Shaver Songs

Duvall, who brilliantly portrayed a down and out country singer in Tender Mercies, praised Shaver's songwriting in a 2018 profile.

"The writing, where it came from, I don't know," Duvall told the Washington Post. "From his own depth and his own demons and his virtues, I guess."

Duvall, a longtime friend of Shaver's, was there to support the music legend during Shaver's trial for shooting a man outside a saloon in Lorena, Texas (Shaver was acquitted of aggravated assault in the trail.)

Over the years, Shaver had his own share of Hollywood moments. Duvall was so captivated by Shaver, he cast him in his 1997 film The Apostle, which also featured June Carter Cash. Shaver also appeared in the 2005 film The Wendell Baker Story alongside Luke Wilson, Harry Dean Stanton, Eva Mendes and Kris Kristofferson.

 

 

'Live Forever' Lyrics:

I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna cross that river
I'm gonna catch tomorrow now
You're gonna wanna hold me
Just like I always told you
You're gonna miss me when I'm gone
Nobody here will ever find me
But I always be around
Just like the songs I leave behind me
I'm gonna live forever now

You fathers and you mothers
Be good to one another
Please try to raise your children right
Don't let the darkness take 'em
Don't make 'em feel forsaken
Just lead them safely to the light
When this old world has blown asunder
And all the stars from fall this sky
Remember someone really loves you
We'll live forever you and I

I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna cross that river
I'm gonna catch tomorrow now

I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna cross that river
I'm gonna catch tomorrow nowI'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna cross that river
I'm gonna catch tomorrow now

I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna cross that river
I'm gonna catch tomorrow now

I'm gonna live forever now
I'm gonna live forever now
I'm gonna live forever now
I'm gonna live forever now

Dream of angels and sunshine
Rivers of red wine, and orange peel blues
Dream of angels and sunshine
Rivers of red wine, and orange peel blues

Now Watch: Robert Duvall Lives on a 300-Acre Horse Farm in Rural Virginia

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Flashback: Robert Duvall Sings Billy Joe Shaver's 'Live Forever' in 'Crazy Heart'