; Tangled Up In Blue: I Love Hank Williams

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I Love Hank Williams

I love Hank Williams. Hank Williams was the original outlaw of American music, in my opinion. He was the first bad boy of popular music and he was even fired from the Grand Ole Opry for his wild behavior. He was the first of a long line of artistic geniuses to die a tragic death at a really young age. Hank's death is as legendary as his life. Having overdosed on whiskey and morphine, Hank was found dead in the back of a Cadillac at the age of 29. His compositions have stood the test of time and have been recorded by many different artists from many different genres of music.

Being an Alabama native, I feel a genuine closeness to Hank's music. I love the story of how he learned to play guitar from a Montgomery blues singer named TeeTot. I really think that Hank's lessons from Tee Tot laid the foundation for what would later become rock and roll. I mean here you have a black man in the 1940's who plays the blues, teaching a young white boy how to play guitar. Tee Tot wanted to hear the young boy play "hillbilly" music, while all Hank wanted Tee Tot to do was play the blues. When you mix hillbilly music with the blues, you end up with rock and roll. If you ever get a chance to see some old video of Hank singing "Move It On Over" or "Honky Tonkin", notice how much he is shaking. Nobody did that kind of thing before Hank. Elvis would do the same kind of thing a few years later, but it all started with Hank.

When I hear him sing "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", I swear that I can feel his pain. He sings it like he means it. The same goes for "Cold, Cold, Heart". I appreciate a singer who sings with feeling, much more than I appreciate a beautiful voice, and Hank's voice had feeling. It was pure country blues and it was an accurate reflection of his life. Hank spent much of his life in both physical and emotional pain. Already a heavy drinker, Hank began taking morphine for back pain and he quickly became addicted. But it was out of that pain that Hank wrote some of his best music. He even took on an alter ego and recorded some very dark spoken word music under the name Luke the Drifter.

His relationship to his wife Audrey was also a source of pain and inspiration. His and Audrey's relationship was a tumultuous one and when they separated for the final time, Hank told Audrey that if she left him, he would be dead in a year. Sure enough, one year to the day that she left, Hank was found dead. As I stated earlier, he was only 29 years old.

"Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves begin to die?
Like me he's lost the will to live
I'm so lonesome I could cry"


Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

BJ Thomas made "I'm So Lonesome I Coud Cry" accessable to an entire audience who may have never heard the song, but NO version can compare to ol' Hank.
You might want to check out the band, "The The," a British band who in the 90s did punk/new wave interpretations to Hank songs. The album was surprisingly good.
His pure agony...the tortured genuis thing came across on every track. No country star today comes close to Hank Sr.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Glen Dean said...

No doubt. It is such a shame that somebody has to live the blues in order to really sing it. My favorite Hank cover is "Move It On Over" by George Thorogood and the Destroyers. I really dig that slide guitar.

The whole "Luke the Drifter" thing had to be totally weird for a country audience in 1950. It just proves to me that he was more of an artist than a pop star.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Raizor's Edge said...

There's a good reason Hank was the second person inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame: only the Father of Country Music, Jimmie Rodgers, was inducted ahead of him, and he's about the only person I can think of who should have been inducted ahead of Hank. There are three Hanks in the Hall of Fame (there should be four -- Locklin definitely belongs there), but everyone knows who you mean when you say "Hank."

6:30 PM  
Blogger Glen Dean said...

Jimmie Rodgers was awesome and when you hear the repetition of lyrics in his songs, they sound a lot like modern blues. Take T for Texas (Blue yodel #?) for example.

I guess Jimmie and the Carter family kind of invented country music.

6:38 PM  
Blogger HUCK said...


That's crazy! You are the only other person I've ever met that has heard the 'The The' Hank album. I used to own it, but it got lost or tossed somewhere along my weary way. I used to love their version of 'Six More Miles'... It always made it onto one of my darker mix tapes along with 'Me and the Devil Blues' by the Cowboy Junkies and 'Oh Death' by the Violent Femmes. Ahh... Good times...

7:32 PM  
Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

If I still have my copy, I'll be glad to make you a copy. It was outstanding!

8:41 PM  
Blogger John H said...

Founding Fathers: Robert Johnson, Jimmy Rogers, Louis Prima, Chuck Berry, Hank Williams, and Elvis...

Once they started figuring out that you could put the backbeat in gospel and the blues and pull some chords from country and bring it all together, you would have something...

Hank lived and died like a rock star..amazing he did all that he did by age 29..It's like when you listen to Otis Redding's voice and all those years and all that pain, and the guy never made it past 26 years of age..

9:33 PM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

As another Alabama native, I feel that same kinship. My favorite has to be "Ramblin' Man".

Sharon, I had a copy of The The's Hank album ("Hanky Spanky", wasn't it?) and was actually looking for it the other day, though I seem to have lost it in one of my moves over the last few years. Great album. I sometimes prefer Johnny Marr's work with The The to his work with The Smiths.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

Rex and Huck...
Do you guys ever fgo over the "The Great Escape" on Broadway? They may very well have a copy of "The The." I live close by to it, and I'll try to drop by there in the next day or two and get a "The The" report for you all.

10:39 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home