Patti Smith has shared a heartbreaking tribute to noted playwright and actor Sam Shepard, whose death was announced yesterday (July 31).
Shepard passed away at home in Kentucky last Thursday (July 27) following complications pertaining to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), his family said in a statement.
In a newly released piece of writing, titled ‘My Buddy’ and posted on The New Yorker, Smith recalls a long, globe-spanning friendship with Shepard – one which blossomed under the influence of Shepard’s noted writing talents, in spite of his illness.
She writes: “Sam promised me that one day he’d show me the landscape of the Southwest, for though well-travelled, I’d not seen much of our own country. But Sam was dealt a whole other hand, stricken with a debilitating affliction. He eventually stopped picking up and leaving. From then on, I visited him, and we read and talked, but mostly we worked. Laboring over his last manuscript, he courageously summoned a reservoir of mental stamina, facing each challenge that fate apportioned him.
“Going over a passage describing the Western landscape, he suddenly looked up and said, “I’m sorry I can’t take you there.” I just smiled, for somehow he had already done just that. Without a word, eyes closed, we tramped through the American desert that rolled out a carpet of many colors—saffron dust, then russet, even the color of green glass, golden greens, and then, suddenly, an almost inhuman blue. Blue sand, I said, filled with wonder. Blue everything, he said, and the songs we sang had a color of their own.”
During a long and incredibly distinguished career, Shepard received Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his acting, and won the Pulizer Prize for Drama for his 1979 play Buried Child. He also received a BAFTA nomination for co-writing the screenplay to Wim Wenders’ classic 1984 road movie Paris, Texas, and earned Tony nominations for two of his plays.