East Coast liberals love Hank. At least somebody at the New York Times does. The prestigious paper has published another article on Hank. I’ve been surprised by the number of Hank stories in The Times just since I started this blog in November of 2008.
Sadly, like much recent activity about Hank, the article focusses on the death of Hank Williams.
The piece in the Friday August 13th edition is by Mary Woodroof and describes a journey to Oak Hill West Virginia the site of Hank Williams’ death in the early morning hours of January 1st 1953. By the way, Woodroof spends the first few paragraphs describing how her journey to Hank Williams’ music came through Emmy Lou Harris who was the subject of the previous post on this blog.
She describes her growing appreciation of Hank Williams in these words:
It was only after I’d had a lot of the pretentiousness knocked out of me by my own addiction struggles that I came to understand all this was beside the point. Hank Williams didn’t write songs for hillbillies; he wrote songs for anybody interested in facing life with a modicum of openness and honesty.
Woodroof describes her conversations with Oak Hill natives as she seeks to find the filling station where it was discovered that Hank Williams was dead. She describes her feeling at the now vacant site of Burdette’s Pure Oil.
To me, there is no romance in such a death; and not much in the life that leads to it. I get to say this because I, too, once flirted seriously with self-destruction and know that when you’re an addict, the rest of your life is a shadow no matter how many songs you write or places you go or people you please. Or how many good times you have, for that matter. There’s no bargaining with alcohol and drugs once you have to have them. You either stop drinking and using or you die.
The article is called ‘Sharing Demons with Hank Williams’. Martha Woodroof is a novelist and works at public radio station WMRA in Virginia.