Posts Tagged ‘Hank Williams songwriter’

One of Hank Williams greatest songs will be back on the charts in April as part of a big new album release that is getting a lot of attention.

The Album is Linda Rondstadt Duets which highlights recordings made by the singer over her long career.

On ‘I Can’t Help It if I’m Still in Love With You’  she is joined by Emmylou Harris in a recording made a way back in 1974.

But there’s nothing better than this shortened version from the Kate Smith Hour TV show.

The album released date is April 8, two days before Linda is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


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Very informative lengthy taped interview with the author of the distinctive Hank Williams’ guitar sound, Don Helms.

This interview was done at the Hank Williams’ Festival in June 1997 by Tom Casesa. He is a New York based musician and visual artist.

Casera asks a lot of good questions and drills down a bit into some interesting topics. When you hear these interviews you often say why didn’t he ask this? That didn’t happen too much in this interview. Tom seems to have gained Don Helms’ trust so he’s very honest. The interview is on You Tube with still pictures.

Thanks to Robert Ackerman for sending it along and Tom Casesa for sharing it with Hank Williams fans through Robert.

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Someone visiting the blog recently reached away back to my beginnings back in 2008 to find a couple of the greatest most profound quotes about Hank Williams I’ve ever read. I guess I had forgotten this blog review of ‘The Unreleased Recordings” by Citizen K.
I have a link to the blog on the blogroll to the right, but I don’t think there has been fresh material on it recently, as the author moved and changed jobs a while back. I used these quotes in one of my articles on the new Hank Mother’s Best record.
Hank Williams knew a terrible secret, and he revealed it in his songs and performances. He knew that humans have a core of fear where love is a fleeting and treacherous thing, where redemption lies in death, and where loneliness and isolation is the human fate. In Hank Williams: The Unreleased Recordings, he fearlessly explores this core, leading us on the harrowing journey that ultimately claimed his life.  . . . . . . . .
Hank Williams understood loneliness as an essential part – maybe the essential part –  of the human condition, the surest path to the true self. He feared loneliness but couldn’t resist its embrace; in his exploration of loneliness, he ironically touched the most fearful part of all of us. Perhaps the knowledge that someone else understood that part of us and could express it as art eases our burden and lightens our step. Certainly, such empathy allowed one soul the redemption it never knew in life…
You can read the whole review HERE.

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This comment from Hank Sundell was posted on this website under an article I wrote about the recent Steve Earle novel which includes the ghost of Hank Williams as a character.

I thought the comment was so real and meaningful that I would give it a post of its own:

Hank Williams was and still is my hero. His voice and songs brought much comfort to us who served in the army and later in a army hospital. He was blue collar and down right a nice guy. There will be only one voice like his. God Bless you Hank where ever you are but I suspect on a cloud somewhere bringing tears to our eyes. You are sir an important part of my recovery as I was in Brooke General Hospital and had the privilege of listening to that wonderful God Given voice. There will be only one Hank Williams. Where ever you are Hank I love you, the rest of the world loves you…


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A fine, rich article on the Hank Williams Fred Rose composition ‘I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive’. Davis Inman takes a pretty in-depth, scholarly look at Hank Williams’ personal situation when the song was recorded in June 1952 just six months from his death. And he examines, I think in a realistic manner, the relationship between Hank Williams and Fred Rose as songwriters.

I was noticing after reading this article a CD of Hank Williams’ greatest hits which I also have on vinyl. It was for many years the sort of definitive Hank Williams greatest hits recording. Millions of fans probably got all their Hank from this record. This is the one with the bust of Hank Williams on the front. Amazingly in this 24 greatest hits package the producer from MGM did not include ‘I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive’.

There’s no doubt ‘I’ll Never’ was a much overlooked hank Williams song through the years. It was released in November 1952, so with Hank’s death in just a little over a month, and then the posthumous release of the massive hit ‘Your Cheatin Heart’, I’ll Never’ may have been overlooked a bit.

On the surface the song is a sort of jumble of unrelated nonsense lyrics. It almost seems in the tradition of ‘Mind Your Own Business’ and ‘Move It on Over’ but not even as coordinated and unified as the two earlier masterpieces.

But this one has a rollicking sense of humour as all the familiar silly images are rolled out. But the title brings in a dark side that seems to grow and become more disturbing as the song piles on the list of unrelated crazy images one after another.

In the end I think the contrast between the fun and the looming spectre of death begins to hit home. And Hank seems to sing it with a kind of intense seriousness which was his trademark.

Of course, if Hank Williams had lived another 40 years the poignancy of the lyric would have been lost. In his article Inman also  notes that Fred Rose lived only two years after it was recorded.

No doubt in my mind that Hank fans will enjoy the article which is right here:

Here’s the link to the American Songwriter Magazine article.

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Hank Williams influence on country music songwriting will be celebrated at the Hall of Fame in Nashville on April 16th.

Of course you may recall that last year Hank received a tremendous honor for his songwriting by inclusion on a Harvard University reference book called ‘A New Literary History of Americas’. There isn’t much  can be done to top that, but the Hall of Fame will present a concert headlining Rodney Crowell as part of the Hank Williams Family Legacy exhibition. The concert will also feature some people I’ve never heard of: Ashley Monroe, the Secret Sisters, and Steve Young.

Each artist in the program will sing a Hank song and then some of their own songs that were inspired by Hank Williams.

All in all it sounds like a pretty feeble, half-hearted effort to honor Hank compared to some of the world-wide recognition that has been coming his way in recent years.

Of course most people who have studied Hank Williams seriously understand that Hank’s legacy saw its real flowering in rock and roll and what he brought to country in the early 50’s was pretty well abandoned as the genre went into its disastrous Nashville Sound period in the 60’s.  The nadir of this era came when record albums were produced called Hank Williams with Strings, and Nashville began pursuing sweet sounding, chart bound, pop hits.

The genre that Hank Williams virtually invented, the solitary, raw, honest, direct singer songwriter exploring the deepest human emotions, was in my opinion pretty hard to find in country. Needless to say there are many exceptions to my broad generalizations. Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Loretta Lynn  stand out. But I wouldn’t include singers such as George Jones or Patsy Cline although legendary country singers and interpreters, they were not for the most part writers. We are only talking about the singer songwriter in this discussion.

The Hank Williams influence  as a songwriter and a performer and as a singer, as I have written before, lived through rockabilly and rock and roll. I have written a lengthy detailed essay on this topic showing how  Hank Williams as a songwriter lived on in the early rock and roll of Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, even as someone else has mentioned Fats Domino.

Then through the 60’s Hank’s persona  lived in the new crop of immensely talented singer songwriters who followed the first crop of  early rockers. Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot, Kris Kristopherson, Gram Parsons, and all the other singer songwriters of the era, much to numerous to mention.

Hank emerged again on the country side with the alt country outlaw movement of the 70’s 80’s. Maybe the Hall of fame folks could give this show some credibility by  bringing in one of those guys maybe a  Billy Joe Shaver  as a last-minute feature.

But as you can figure out by now, I think the Rock Hall of Fame would be a more suitable sponsor for this event.

Here’s my essay on Hank Williams influence on early rock.

And here’s my report on ‘A New literary History of America’.

And finally here are two essays I wrote on Hank Williams and Leonard Cohen:

Part 1

Part 2

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Creative writers need editors. Every novelist, poet, filmmaker and yes songwriter needs somebody to take a second  look at his work which is often composed in a creative rush of inspiration. If we saw the original submissions of famous novels, the raw footage of classic movies, and original drafts of classic poetry and plays, we wouldn’t recognize many of them. Editors cut stuff, move things around, make suggestions, even make changes and additions. That is just how the artistic world works. And Hank Williams as Fred Rose knew was a great artist but he needed a great Editor.

As Beecher O’Quinn points out in the newsletter I wrote about in the last post, Rose had a reputation as a song writer on his own merits. O’Quinn recounts how hard Rose worked on his music, took it seriously, and went over songs over and over again. He also says Rose had a policy of not taking credit unless he wrote 80% of a song. But I think a major point is that Rose was willing to take credit when he thought he deserved it. The opposite must be true: He would not take credit is he didn’t deserve it.

Every one of the Hank Williams biographies talks about how Hank and Fred Rose would meet to go over songs. In some case Rose took a credit. In most he did not. The reason he did not is that he was a very honest man who says his role as an editor for a very gifted young artist.

I think sometimes that Hank Williams was ALWAYs young. He was a genius and a creative dynamo with an original lyric. But he was not well educated as a musician or a writer. But the help he got is similar to dozens of famous writers you could name. He needed guidance. Rose obviously saw the youth, the spark, the enthusiasm, the creative originality.

The article by Dave Hickey in the ‘New Literary History of America’ called ‘The Song in Country Music’ is about Hank Williams’   craftsmanship. This was obviously the trait that Rose saw which reminded him of himself.  The Hickey article works on the theme that Hank Williams’ lyrics were sung over and over again and that poetic devices around the use of internal rhymes and vowel repetitions came from Hank’s going over and over them as a singer. None of this work by Hank alone can be laid at the feet of Fred Rose, but he sure knew what it was when he saw it.

I wonder if Hank’s creative spark perhaps inspired Rose as much as the influence was the other way around. An up tempo Rose song like ‘Settin the Woods on Fire’ has a Hank Williams style. A ballad like ‘Take These Chains’ also has hints of Hank.

Looking at his whole output I think it’s fair to say Rose was, well let’s say it directly, “He was no Hank Williams!!”

One of his most famous  compositions  ‘Blue Eyes Crying in The Rain’ is overwritten, and overwrought,  and it’s grossly overly sentimental. It resembles some of Hank’s weaker efforts, and comes nowhere near the spare, haunting, coldly original language  we find in the best of Hank Williams. ‘Take These Chains’ is similar; great, but not Hank.

Hank Williams had a direct, burning way with words, a power over language that seared the soul. He had directness and a clean clear sparseness and poetic originality in his writing: “a picture from the past came slowly stealing”, “but now I know your heart is shackled to a memory.”

So I’m saying Fred Rose was very important. I can imagine the truth in a story I’ve  read that says he suggested a change from “I Lose Again” to “You Win  Again”  in that famous song. Definitely possible and credible. That’s what editors do. But in his own country music writing there is an element of consciously composing what he knows will fit in the picture or the genre of country melody and language, but which lacks something of the absolute directness and honesty of real country.

In short, can anyone imagine Fred Rose writing ‘Hey Good Lookin’? No. Case closed.

As regular reader’s of this blog may remember I wrote an article devoted to praising the Fred Rose and Maurice Murray composition ‘Crazy Heart’ which recently was used as the title of a country music movie. So my admiration for Rose is already on the record. Here is my post on ‘Crazy Heart’. To me that song’s forceful rhythm building on Hank’s early ‘Move it on Over’ really helped establish Hank’s claim to be an early innovator in the road to rock and roll.

This is not to say ‘The  Tennessee Waltz’ is not an all time great of country music as are other Rose compositions. But despite how closely they worked together, I see a very clear difference between the works of Fred Rose and those of Hank Williams.

Finally, I want to direct you to some information about Fred Rose and Hank Williams on the Hank Williams Appreciation Society website.

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