They laid Brenda Tindell Shaver to rest in Waco Memorial Park last Monday, the closing chapter in her often painful struggle against
cancer that lasted more than two years.
Brenda, the wife of Waco singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver and mother of talented guitarist Eddy, had worked for Johnny Cash and June
Carter during the Shaver’s years in Nashville, before she moved back to the Waco area. What her family and friends remembered, however, weren’t career achievements, but the personal qualities of a loving mother and devoted Christian.
A member of her church, Bro. Charles Henry, spoke Monday morning of Brenda’s unfailing smile and uncomplaining spirit in her wearying fight against her illness, while Chaplain Bill Honea told the small crowd of family and friends that filled Heritage Memorial Chapel that she was now in the company of the Jesus whom she trusted, far beyond the suffering of her final days.
I never met Brenda, but couldn’t help but know her through the songs of the man who couldn’t shake his love for her, no matter how
rocky the road he traveled.
She was an unseen presence in the first Billy Joe Shaver album I heard, 1987’s
Salt of the Earth. What impressed me in Shaver’s lyrics - startled me in fact -
was his emotional nakedness, his raw hopes and fears laid out for the world to see. While much of Nashville’s music machine works overtime to polish their stars with a happy, glossy facade, here was a grizzled performer who spoke openly of his failures, and several of those failures he felt were in his relationships.
In Tramp on Your Street, the 1993 album that brought Shaver back into the limelight, this time with his son Eddy as guitarist, the
singer-songwriter dropped more than a few allusions to a life in which drinking and neglect cost him what he truly loved, and his efforts to
regain those things.
In "If I Give My Soul" he wonders if repentance will repair his links to his wife and son.
If I give my soul to Jesus, will she take me back
again ? On
the same album, “ When the Fallen Angels Fly” aches for a heavenly healing.
God will save his fallen angels and their broken wings He’ll mend/When He draws their hearts together, and they learn to love
Shaver’s subsequent Highway of Life contained the emotionally stark “The First and the Last Time”, which a despairing Shaver wrote in
an empty kitchen after Brenda had moved out on him, and in which he wonders if she ever loved him.
Brenda ran like a thread through his music and his life, his muse even during the periods of separation, and his most recent albums never failed to name Brenda Joyce, Brenda, or Brenda Tindell-Shaver among those he thanked for their support in their liner notes.
In periodic interviews over the years, Billy Joe kept me posted on her chemotherapy and his efforts to mend past hurts caused by two
divorces; that’s what caused him to move back to Central Texas in the late 1990s.
So it was more than fitting that the funeral services celebrating Brenda’s life began with Shaver’s “I’m Going to Live Forever” followed
later by his “She Can Dance”.
Playing guitar on both those recordings was Eddy, her son whom she loved, according to her obituary, “with every breath that she ever
Long after the fall rains have softened the dirt around Brenda’s grave and the spring rains help cover it in peaceful grass, it’s that eulogy, that legacy that will live on. Shaver’s words of love ever dancing in the hearts and minds of his fans.
Dancing as only Brenda had in his heart and mind.
Carl Hoover, Entertainment Editor