Best remembered for his short stint as the lead vocalist of the Byrds, the late Gene Clark had a varied career in music ranging from early psychedelic pop singles to a pioneering role in the creation of country rock.

Born in Missouri, Clark picked up his interest in music from his father, an amateur musician. At 13 he cut his first record with a rock combo but soon changed his focus to folk rock after hearing the Everly Brothers. After a brief stint in the New Christy Minstrels Clark left for LA where he met Roger McGuinn. The pair began forming the band that would eventually become the Byrds and Clark would become their primary songwriter. A combination of a fear of flying, his limited guitar skills and disputes over income distribution led to his departure from the group in 1966.

Clark went on to record a pioneering country rock album as his first solo record which commercially was overshadowed by a simultaneous release from the Byrds. His following release, the start of a collaboration with Doug Dillard was also a critical success but a commercial failure.

Gene Clark continued an on again, off again relationship with the Byrds and its’ various members through the early 80s. After releasing a solo record in 77, Clark put aside his fear of flying to perform in an international tour. On the same bill with Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, the trio added a short set of Byrds songs to their shows. This led to the short-lived McGuinn, Clark and Hillman group.

After staying out of music for a few years, Gene Clark returned with an album in 1986 and his popularity rose, driven by the new jangle rock sound from bands like REM – which traced their sound back in part to the Byrds. The Byrds figured prominently in Clarks last years – the band feuded over the use of the band name by competing groups before reuniting for their induction into the Rock and Roll hall of Fame in 1991.

Gene Clark died later that year from natural causes, accelerated by his long term substance abuse problems.

Photo Credit: John Dietrich