Robin Williams, who is still a good friend, and I wrote this song in 1978 or 1979 in my living room. I had moved to the Chicago area to take a job as a magazine editor, and I was deathly homesick for old comrades and familiar scenes. Robin & Linda were visiting. I don't recall whether I wrote the lyrics then and there, or if I had them waiting for them on their arrival. I do remember that the idea evolved from the opening line, quoted from any number of old folk songs, "As I walked out one evening...." The melody is Robin's.
People bring their varying interpretations to the song, and they're all valid as far as I'm concerned. The late Art Thieme told me he had always heard it as a song about Alzheimer's. When he said as much, I was taken aback but soon saw what he meant. The moral of the story is that one can be surprised even by one's own words.
"They All Faded Away," which came along a few years later, was one of the world's gazillions of divorce-inspired songs. This one is accurate in all its details. Thanks for mentioning it -- it is still among my favorites of those the Williamses and I wrote together -- but my last name is Clark, not "Clarke."