Every enduring singer-songwriter has penned a piece that, whether deliberate or not, eventually becomes a personal anthem.
For Bob Dylan, it's "Like a Rolling Stone." For Jimmy Buffet, it's "Margaritaville." Billy Joel has the "Piano Man" and Jackson Browne is "The Pretender."You get the picture.
Jerry Jeff Walker's No. 1 anthem is, no doubt, his classic "Mr. Bojangles."
But "Gettin' By," a song about taking life "easy come, easy go," has got to be a close second.
Walker first recorded the song in 1973 on the album "Viva Terlingua!" He has since updated it for his latest album, "Viva Luckenbach!" to reflect the realities of middle age:
"Well, I ain't no spring chicken/-My dance card's sure been punched/-And I've been down this road once or twice before."
It's only appropriate that Walker is opening his concerts of late with "Gettin' By," as it offers the only logical explanation for his longevity.
A legendary carouser whose sarcastic mouth attracted fists to his face on more than one occasion, the 52-year-old Walker has done more than his share of "pickin' up the pieces wherever they fall."
And he's still drawing crowds wherever he goes.
Sunday was no exception in Red Butte Garden, where the collection of humanity was, for a few hours, as diverse as the place's plant life. Here, Birkenstocks and Tevas roamed freely with Justins and Tony Lamas; loose-fitting Patagonia shorts sat down next to tight Wrangler jeans. Even Deedee and Yan strolled unnoticed among hip mommies dancing with their small children.
The evening owed its diversity to Walker, a New Yorker cum Texan whose stage presence largely explains his mass appeal. With silver hair, a ragged shirt and baggy pants rolled up past his ankles, he sported an old dirty-white felt cowboy hat and a brand new pair of tennis shoes.
If Walker's persona didn't please, his song-selection would. For the next 90 minutes, he served up 22 tunes that spanned his nearly three-decade career of mixing folk and country with rock 'n' roll.
While most artists save their best for last, the whiskey-voiced Walker and his Gonzo Compadres band played the favorites up front. Those included "Mr. Bojangles," which is as perfect a folk song as has ever been written; "London Homesick Blues," also known as the theme to the TV program "Austin City Limits"; and "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mothers," which, well, defies description.
The second half of his show was highlighted by "Pissing in the Wind," "Jaded Lover," "L.A. Freeway" and "Pick Up the Tempo."
In between, he played a handful of cuts from the new album, a dedication to his love for the Lone Star State and to the small Texas hamlet where 20 years ago Walker helped give birth to the gonzo, cosmic-cowboy, counterculture movement in country music.
When it was all said and sung, it was clear that Mr. Bojangles is still gettin' by.