Posts Tagged ‘Hank Williams’ Pulitzer Prize’

Contemporary singer songwriter legend Paul Simon has ranked Hank Williams in the top echelon of all songwriters from all genres in American musical history.

The short posting on a New York  website received some coverage because Simon put Paul McCartney in the top six, but left John Lennon in the second tier. In the comments section there was a bit of debate about the McCartney versus Lennon issue and the  absence of  Bob Dylan on the first tier. The top six are:

George Gershwin

Irving Berlin

Hank Williams

Paul McCartney

Richard Rodgers

Lorenz Hart

Simon put the following in his second tier:

John Lennon

Bob Dylan

Bob Marley

Stephen Sondheim

And then, “maybe I’m in there too”.

Hank Williams recently received a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for his writing as well as inclusion in a Harvard University reference book caller ‘A New Literary History of America’.

Here’s the original article.

So, is there only ONE country music songwriter who deserves to be on that list?

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On May 24th Jett Williams accepted Hank Williams’ Pulitzer Prize Citation from the President of Columbia University in New York. Jett Williams was quoted on the All Access website:

“Hank Williams has always been in a class all his own as the Shakespeare  of ‘the common man,’ whom he touched so deeply and for so long with his lyrical genius,” said Jett Williams. “To be so honored by the Pulitzer Prize Board puts my dad in the company of those who have grown to appreciate and now recognize his incredible influence and talent. To hear the strains of ‘Hey Good Lookin’ ringing throughout the rotunda at Columbia University as we exited the event would give anyone pause — it certainly did me.”

Here’s a widely circulated photo of the event distributed by Columbia University with Jett in the middle and Columbia University President  Lee Bollinger on the left and Carolyn Tate from Columbia on the right..

I have written SEVEN posts on Hank’s Pulitzer win. You can easily bring them all up by typing “Pulitzer” in the search box at the top of the blog.

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A final newspaper article on Hank Williams’ Pulitzer Prize honor.

In this one, the citation from the Columbia University Pulitzer committee, is nicely linked with the memories of Bob Sullivan who knew Hank Williams during his days at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport.

I’ve often wondered who coined the phrase “Hillbilly Shakespeare”, which is revived in the headline for this report.

The article with a photo of Bob is carried in an Oklahoma paper called the McAlester News-Capital.

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The rush of news and comment in the media on Hank Williams’ Pulitzer Prize is starting to slow down. But I wanted to bring you at least one more comment, this time from the Martinez News Gazette in California.

This article has the clever title of ‘Melting the Pulitizer’s cold, cold heart’, and is written by Jim Caroompas.

In this paragraph, Caroompas goes right at that vocal quality that I was talking  about a few posts back, the voice that could reach into the most profound depths of human experience.

Well, Hank pretty much created country music in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Before him, there were country players, but they were considered hillbillies. No one in mainstream America took the music seriously. Hank put on sparkly cowboy suits with a great big Stetson hat to frame his skinny physique, and filled the room with that broken-hearted voice of his that still sends shivers down the spine, so full of loneliness and raw despair. His singing alone could keep him in the forefront of country music history. He brought a new respect for the way you could sing a country song, almost urbanized the genre without losing its sense of hay and fried chicken. A kid in New Jersey could feel a kinship with the pain in that voice, as easily as one from Georgia.

The writer also makes a good comment about the songs and their enduring value.

The odds are pretty good that you know at least one of those songs, no matter how old you are. That is the ultimate legacy for a songwriter – the fact that the songs get handed down from one generation to the next. At some point, of course, the writer is forgotten. But the song continues.

Great work Jim.

The whole article is in the Martinez News Gazette.

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It’s been a little slow to develop but the commentary on Hank Williams’ Pulitzer is bringing out some great writing about Hank in the media. I’m jealous of ability and the insights I’m seeing.

Here a comment from JP G at ‘Satire on the Rocks’, a blog.

If the Wisdom of the Ages had an actual voice, it would sound like Hank Williams’. Those things you know to be true but disregard for whatever reason? Your knowledge that life is short? The despair about your imminent demise? Hank Williams wrote the soundtrack to the Human Condition.

Very few Hank songs are about how it’s a great day to be alive. The closest he gets is something like “I Saw the Light,” with its refrain, “I saw the light/I saw the light/No more darkness, no more night/Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight/Praise the Lord, I saw the light.” Sure, he found God and now he’s happy, but there is mention made of sorrow, darkness, and night. He’s happy enough now, but there was a time…

The whole blog posting is brilliant. And there’s lots of references to Hank’s sad personal biography that we all know about, but JP G has to review because a lot of his readers may not know much about Hank. But unlike some I have mentioned in the past, this writer uses details of Hank’s life to make good points about his works.

Maybe I should retire and turn this into a news clipping service.

Here is the link to the article called ‘A singular voice now with a (posthumous) Pulitzer to prove it’.

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Hank Williams is hitting the big time on Wall Street. Well not exactly bringing down the billions on worthless commercial paper and the multi million dollar paycheques,  but getting a nice write up in the Wall Street Journal of all places. Hey they’ve got hearts after all!

I especially like the clever play on the title of a Hank song in the headline.

Wall Street Journal here.

I thought I would repeat for emphasis here, the last paragraph of the Wall Street Journal story, which is one of the very best paragraphs about Hank Williams and modern Country Music I’ve seen in a while:

The acknowledgement of Williams comes at a time when country music seems under assault from within, as its biggest stars promote glossy, cookie-cutter hybrid that owes more to pop than acoustic country and its writers have reduced to a litany of well-worn clichés the kind of lyrical insight Williams displayed. Though Williams was a star in his day who understood the power of image, at the core of his work was his ability to write and sing lines that resonated not only in the mind but deep in the heart of his listeners – which is why his songs so easily cross genres for other performers: His words speak of what we know to be true.

Hey we’ve all been saying this over and over, but this writer said it so WELL.

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