An essay on Hank Williams is featured as one of 216 in a new history of American literature from Harvard University Press. The ‘ A New Literary History of America’ was edited by Greil Marcus who is a well known writer on popular music topics, and Werner Sollars a professor at Harvard. They were assisted by a 12 member advisory board. The history covers the period from 1507 to 2008. Three other popular music figures are covered as well, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, and Billie Holiday, as well as early Jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton.
The essay focussing on Hank Williams is called ‘The Song in Country Music’. It is written by Dave Hickey, a noted arts and culture critic and a Professor of English at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Hickey has written for major American magazines such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and Harpers. He has been profiled and interviewed in a number of major newspapers such as the New York Times. He has written several books including ‘Air Guitar’, an examination of 23 love songs.
Hickey’s essay examines Hank Williams’ influence on later song writers.
I tackled this topic in an earlier post in which I discussed the Hank Williams’ rock masterpiece ‘Hey Good Lookin’ and the influence of Hank Williams’ attitude and language on later rock songwriters such as Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. It’s here.
Among song writers quoted by Hickey are Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, Harlan Howard, and Waylon Jennings. They speak in detail about the specific elements of Hank’s work and specific passages that inspired, and more importantly taught them about song writing. Maud Newton has an excerpt from the essay in her review here.
This is an emotional moving day for Hank Williams’ fans. Indeed it is one of the most significant events in the Hank Williams’ story. He truly is immortal now.