Hank Williams

            Hank Williams is one of the most important names in the history of country and western music. He recorded more than thirty top-ten songs in his career, with eleven of those songs climbing the charts to the very top. He had a short life span, dying at the age of 29, but he began playing when he was only 14 years of age. Over the course of his career, some of his most prominent numbers included “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Lonesome Whistle,” both of which were known for their raw emotion and deceptively simple melodies.

While Hank Williams may have been appreciated for his songwriting abilities, his voice was a major contributor to his career success. He was able to project so well that he never needed an amplifier when playing barrooms and roadhouses early in his career. His ability to play such rough and tough venues would become a notable aspect of his career. It informed his choice of bassist (wrestler Cannonball Nichols) and had a major impact on his lifestyle, which was rife with alcohol and female drama. Of course, these things only added to his emotional repertoire, enabling him to write more songs.

The direct lyrics and honest emotion in Williams’ songs has become something of a standard in the world of country music. Songs such as “Cold, Cold Heart” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” did not try to hide their emotion in complicated lyrics, but rather laid everything on the line for the listener to hear. He did occasionally use clever imagery or double entendre, such as he did in “Hey Good Lookin’,” but even his wittier lyrics were generally prosaic enough that they did not require much in the way of exegesis. This made his music highly accessible to the average listener.

Hank Williams’ music was so hauntingly inspiring that it became a popular source of covers for numerous other famous artists. This was especially true in the 1950s and 1960s, when his music was covered by musicians such as Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Carl Perkins, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. In 2008, some of his unfinished lyrics were recorded by artists such as Jack White, Norah Jones, and Sheryl Crow. Other artists to record his songs include Ray Charles, Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris, Beck, Van Morrison, and contemporary alternative rock band Cake.

In 1961, Hank Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame more than two decades later in 1987. In between, in 1970, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His numerous contributions to the standards of country music have been recognized on several occasions, and his home state of Alabama even began celebrating “Hank Williams Day” in September of 1951, just two days before he died.

Despite having passed away more than sixty years ago, his music continues to inspire country and western singers to this day. There may be numerous legends in the world of country music, but Hank Williams was doubtlessly one of the greatest and most timeless of them all.

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