Legendary actor and playwright Sam Shepard has died. According to The New York Times, Shepard died on Thursday at his home in Kentucky. He was 73. A spokesman for his family said the cause was complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Shepard is survived by his former partner Jessica Lange, and his three children: Jesse Mojo Shepard, Hannah Jane Shepard, and Samuel Walker Shepard.
Here’s what you need to know about Shepard’s children:
1. His Son Jesse Mojo Shepard is Author of the Book ‘Jubilee King’
Jesse Mojo Shepard is the playwright’s oldest child, born to him and O-Lan Jones in May 1970. He followed in the footsteps of his father and became a writer, publishing his first book, Jubilee King, in 2003. The short story collection was released to glowing reviews, with many critics pointing out that Jesse shared his father’s knack for finding poetry in the mundane. SF Station wrote:
Fiction writer Jesse Shepard joins his father Sam on the bookshelves with his first collection of shorts stories, Jubilee King. When you read Sam Shepard’s work horses, cowboys, the movie business, and humor are constant talismans. When you see his work on stage, the details create the West: barefeet and silver ankle bracelets, cowboy boots sealed with silver gaffer’s tape. Jesse Shepard is not a dramatist (yet?) but he trades on these themes.
On Shepard’s website, it states that Jesse was named after the outlaw Jesse James and a Cajun good luck charm. To commemorate the release of Jubilee King, he and his father performed a joint reading at City Lights in San Francisco. Read the full account here.
2. His Daughter Hannah Jane Shepard is an Administrative Assistant & Activist
Hannah Jane Shepard was born on January 13, 1986, the first child of Shepard and Jessica Lange. According to Shepard’s official website, Hannah graduated from Minnesota’s Stillwater Sr. High School in 2004 and from Sarah Lawrence College in 2008.
She worked as an administrative assistant for Hawthorne Valley Association in upstate New York. Shepard’s website states that Hawthorne Valley Association “seeks to promote social and cultural renewal through the integration of education, agriculture, and the arts by engaging in a unique mix of cultural and economic endeavors.” Hannah assisted with archiving materials and planning events at Hawthorne Valley Association.
In addition to her work at Hawthorne, Hannah is involved with numerous charities and foundations, including African Solutions to African Problems (ASAP), which supports orphans and children made vulnerable by AIDS in South Africa.
3. His Second Son Samuel Walker Shepard is a Musician & Member of ‘The Down Hill Strugglers’
Samuel Walker Shepard, the youngest son of Shepard and Lange, was born on June 14, 1987. Samuel is a musician who joined The Dust Busters in 2008, which was later renamed The Down Hill Strugglers.
The band are based out of Brooklyn, New York, and cover a variety of different sounds and genres, including “old-time songs, ballads, fiddle tunes and jug band blues into every performance, infused with the old-time feeling and freewheelin’ high energy that characterized early string bands such as The Skillet Lickers, Dykes Magic City Trio, The Mississippi Sheiks, and J.E. Mai.”
Samuel, more commonly referred to by his middle name ‘Walker’, plays fiddle, banjo, guitar, and harmonica. In 2013, he and The Down Hill Strugglers contributed the song “The Roving Gambler” to the soundtrack of the acclaimed Coen brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis. Listen to it above.
4. Hannah & Walker Have a Half-sister Named Aleksandra Baryshnikov
Aleksandra Lange Baryshnikov was born in 1981 to Jessica Lange and choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov. Lange ended her relationship with Baryshikov and began dating Shepard the following year, ultimately making Aleksandra the half-sister of Hannah and Samuel Walker.
Aleksandra, also known as ‘Shura’, continued in the tradition of her father’s family lineage and became an American dancer, choreographer, dance educator and actor. When asked if it was a burden or a blessing to have such famous parents, Aleksandra told East Side Monthly:
Both; I worked hard to build what I have in this community on my own merits. Who my parents are is often a point of interest or curiosity, but what I’ve earned… has been my own. I’ve worked hard at it. I was exposed to incredible artists as a young person, incredible travel and arts education by osmosis; I value my parents as artists and the integrity they showed me over time.
On Shura’s personal website, she states that she is the head for the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA Program in the Department of Theatre Arts and Performing Studies at Brown University and has also instructed at MIT, Dean College, Salve Regina University, and Connecticut College.
5. Shepard Said His Relationship With His Father Influenced His Own Parenting
In an interview with The New York Times in 2015, Shepard discussed the pivotal role that his father, Samuel Shepard Rogers VII, played in his career and his personal life. “I think there is a way in which men — not women so much — tend to obsess about certain things and go off and become very isolated, very estranged from the people who are close to them,” he said. The playwright added that “He had such a strong influence on me. I guess it was inevitable. There is a mystery about him that still exasperates — and intrigues — me.”
The piece goes on to assert that this influenced how Shepard raised his own children. When asked if his rocky relationship with his father mirrors that of his relationship with his son, he told SF Gate, “My relationship with Jesse has been the complete opposite.”