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‘Cadillac Ranch’ Creator Stanley Marsh 3 Dies

Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Eccentric artist Stanley Marsh 3, who created the roadside ‘Cadillac Ranch’ art exhibit (pictured above) west of Amarillo, Texas, died on June 17 at the age of 76. The installation inspired a Bruce Springsteen song of the same name.

While no cause of death is given, the Associated Press says that Marsh had suffered several strokes in recent years, and Connect Amarillo reports that he died in hospice care.

Born into a wealthy oil family, Marsh had worked in banking and owned a local television station, but his love of art — and pranks — led him to sponsor public artworks. The most famous of these was 1974’s ‘Cadillac Ranch,’ which featured 10 junked Cadillacs buried in the dirt along Interstate 40. The exhibit, which was created by the Ant Farm collective, was moved to a different location in 1997.

Springsteen’s track, featured on 1980’s ‘The River,’ is one of the most beloved of his “car songs.” He draws upon the car’s beauty (“Eldorado fins, whitewalls and skirts / Rides just like a little bit of heaven here on earth“) while using the exhibit as a metaphor for death, telling his girl, “You’re my last love / Baby you’re my last chance / Don’t let ’em take me to the Cadillac Ranch.”

Other installations by Marsh involved placing fake traffic signs around Amarillo and painting a mesa to look like it was floating. “Amarillo has lost a bit of its color,” Wyatt McSpadden, an old friend said. “He certainly enlivened what might have been a kind of dull place.”

However, he was occasionally the source of controversy. In 1994, he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges after locking up a teenager who stole one of his signs. More seriously, two years ago he had been charged with various crimes related to sex with minors. Marsh died before a court date could be set.

Watch Bruce Springsteen Perform ‘Cadillac Ranch’

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