Friday, January 1, 2010

Hank Williams

Hank Williams, the groundbreaking singer-songwriter, died 57 years ago today at the age of 29. Hank's music was my gateway to country music, not the current Nashville sound (which I don't prefer, but also don't disparage), but to the music of Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, the wonderful Lucinda Williams (no relation), just to name a few. His music spans from haunting ("I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Alone and Forsaken") to jubilant ("I Saw the Light," "Settin the Woods on Fire"). His songs are standards of country music, just as the songs of the Beatles have become standards of rock music.

Reason's Damon Root on Hank:
Born in Mount Olive, Alabama on September 17, 1923, Williams shaped the American musical landscape with his haunting, high lonesome voice and vivid lyrical depictions of love, loss, sin, and salvation. In Nick Tosches’ memorable words, “Hank’s music—Hank himself, really—was a mixture of whiskey, lamb’s blood, and grave dirt.”

The author of numerous hits, including classics such as “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Move It On Over,” and “Cold, Cold Heart,” Williams had a vast influence over singers as different as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, and Bob Dylan. No history of American popular culture should be considered complete unless it recognizes his importance as both a performer and a songwriter.

Below is my favorite Hank song, "Long Gone Lonesome Blues."