Skip to main content

Renaissance man Sam Shepard, actor, writer, musician dies at 73

Written By | Aug 1, 2017

LOS ANGELES, August 1, 2017 – America has lost another beloved actor and playwright.  Sam Shepard passed on Monday as a result of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease for the American baseball first baseman who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees, from 1923 through 1939, before being diagnosed with ALS.

The Shepard family confirmed his passing on Monday.

Preparing for the journey of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Sam Shepard was seen as one of the last remaining actors from Hollywood’s Golden era and he has left a lengthy film resume including roles in ‘Days of Heaven’ and ‘Baby Boom.’ Unlike most celebrities, his goal was not the glitz and glamor, happy to act, and write for, the National Theatre.

Shepard wrote and performed in many plays including ‘True West,’ ‘Fool for Love’ and ‘Buried Child.’ Shepard was able to complete 44 plays, more than William Shakespeare who wrote 37 according to Absolute Shakespeare.

Mr. Shepard’s is best loved for his strong performances as the classic cowboy and homesteader, something he was typecast for, and which he learned to embrace saying.

“You just grow up and you realize, you know, life serves up what it serves up. I got over being anything but thankful for being in any kind of a box — Western or not. It’s been a rich life,” he says. “It’s been a rich life.”

Shepard, the son of a bomber-pilot, was also cast as the military hero, such as General Garrison in Black Hawk Down.

Shepard’s first off-Broadway performance was in Cowboy Mouth along with his girlfriend Patti Smith, an American singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist who became an influential component of the New York City punk rock movement.

Cowboy Mouth, the name is taken from the Bob Dylan song “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” was a collaborative effort between Smith and Shepard, that Shepard says was a “war of words.” Passing a typewriter back and forth over a period of two nights, they wrote the play, line by line.

The plot includes just two characters, a woman named Cavale and a man named Slim she kidnapped.

Shepard, a rock drummer, and guitarist, performed with Smith, most recently in 2007, covering Nirvana’s Teen Spirit. Shepard played banjo on the recording.

Smith said of Shepard in an interview with The Guardian:

“He was just everything that one could want. He was – still is – a very handsome man. And he had this animal magnetism. It was almost visceral. He was so high energy and had a real glint in his eyes. He was born for rock’n’roll. I had no idea who he was when I met him. He was a drummer in a band, the Holy Modal Rounders, at the time and he just had something in him that made him a great, great performer. I just thought he was the future of rock’n’roll.

I had no idea that actually he was this great writer too.”

Shepard was married to O-Lan Jones when he met Smith. Jones and Shepard have one child, Jesse Mojo Shepard (b.1970).

Shepard also had a thirty-year relationship with actress Jessica Lange.  They have two children together, Hannah Jane and Samuel Walker.

Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange

Throughout his career, Shepard continued to perform both in front and behind the camera. Most recently he was part of Netflix’s original series ‘Bloodline’ which released its final season earlier this year.

Sam Shepard in Bloodline – Netflix promotional image

Shepard’s received the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Buried Child, launching Shepard’s career as a playwright. The play depicts the fragmentation of the American nuclear family in a context of disappointment and disillusionment with American mythology and the American Dream

In 1979, Shepard won the Obie Award for Playwriting and Buried Child on Broadway (1996)was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Play.

His portrayal of Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff caused him to be nominated for an Academy Award in 1984.

The condolences of everyone at CommDigiNews to the family and friends of Sam Shepard. Writer Lawrence Lease contributed to this story


Jacquie Kubin

Jacquie Kubin is an award-winning writer and wanderer. She turns her thoughts to an eclectic mix of stories - from politics to sports. Restless by nature and anxious to experience new things, both in the real world and online, Jacquie mostly shares travel and culinary highlights, introduces readers to the chefs and creative people she meets and shares the tips, life and travel information people want to read.