Influential Texas singer-songwriter Charlie Robison has died. He was 59.
Robison died Sunday at a San Antonio hospital after suffering cardiac arrest and other complications, just nine days after his Sept. 1 birthday, according to multiple media reports,
A Facebook post from Robison’s sister, Robyn Ludwick, said Robison “passed away in the arms of his loved ones.”
“Today, my heart is broken in the deepest, most irreparable way,” wrote Ludwick.
Robison was born in Houston. He and his younger brother, Bruce Robison, also a significant figure in Texas music, gigged around Austin in the late 1980s. Eventually, Charlie Robison released his debut solo album, Bandera, in 1996.
He was signed for a time with Columbia Records in the early 2000s. He put out six studio records — the last was 2013’s High Life — and several live albums, including a Live at Billy Bob’s recording, also released in 2013. Robison wrote with an eye for detail and tremendous empathy, while always treating the larger music business with a healthy degree of skepticism and, occasionally, antagonism.
The impact his life and work had on generations of Texas artists was evident in the outpouring of grief following the news of his death.
“When I moved to Texas in 2002 because of a job, and with no intentions of making a career out of music, I found Charlie Robison and Robert Earl Keen,” Fort Worth singer-songwriter Jason Eady wrote on Facebook. “I say this in my show all the time … I didn’t know you could do it that way. I bet I went to 5 Charlie shows that first year. Listening to those records made me start writing again and gave me hope that there was another path to making your own kind of music and doing it your way.”
Even icons like George Strait mourned Robison’s loss: “He brought so much great music to this great state and others,” the superstar wrote on Facebook.
Robison was no stranger to Billy Bob’s, the Fort Worth venue. He performed there 38 times over the course of his career. He was scheduled to perform there again in October, but the show was cancelled on Aug. 30, citing “an unforeseen health condition.”
“Our hearts are broken to learn of the passing of Texas country music legend and our dear friend Charlie Robison,” said a post on the venue’s Facebook page.
“Charlie made his Billy Bob’s Texas debut on April 16, 1999 … He left his mark on our handprint wall of fame in 2002 and got a tattoo on his arm on August 31, 2012 to commemorate his Live at Billy Bob’s recording. We have been blessed to have so many wonderful memories with Charlie over the years and will miss him greatly.”
The tattoo Robison got is actually the album cover for his Live at Billy Bob’s release.
If he’d made it, that October date in the Stockyards would have been another chapter in a remarkable comeback story. In 2018, Robison announced his retirement from live performance and singing, owing to complications from a surgical procedure which had left him with what he described as the “permanent inability to sing.”
But Robison quietly began booking gigs around the state, starting with a Nov. 2022 date at the Red Rooster Icehouse in Hawkins, about 20 miles north of Tyler.
Robison was married, from 2000-2008, to Emily Strayer of the Chicks, with whom he had three children. Emily’s sister and bandmate, Martie Maguire, wrote the Chicks’ classic single “Cowboy Take Me Away” about the pair.
He is survived by his three children with Strayer, as well as one child from his second marriage to Kristen Robison, and his younger siblings, Robyn and Bruce.
Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on X (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.