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Posts Tagged ‘I Can’t Help it if I’m Still in Love with You’

As I was discussing in Part 1, there is very little video of Hank Williams performing with live audio. The only readily accessible songs come from the Kate Smith Show in 1952. They are ‘Hey Good Lookin’, ‘Cold, Cold Heart’, and ‘I Can’t Help It If I’m Still in Love with You’. There is film without sound of Hank walking around and some of performance without sound.

The accessibility of video has been made much more difficult especially for newcomers by the ill-conceived practice of using the limited video available from Kate Smith and dubbing the recordings of other songs over the existing video. This is a stupid idea. It does absolutely nothing to further or enhance Hank Williams’ legacy or reputation. The dubbing is so poorly done  it makes the performer  look like he can’t get the words straight, since his  lips don’t sync with the words, and the expressions don’t fit with the sentiments in the recording. Seeing one of these would be enough to drive a newcomer to Hank Williams away, and he or she might never return.

The absolute worst case of this occurred in the 90’s when a newly discovered recording called ‘There’s a Tear in My Beer’ was dubbed over one of the Kate Smith videos and then Hank Williams Junior foolishly allowed himself to be taped in the same picture doing a so-called “duet” with his father. What a sad day that was.

Hank’s performance of ‘Cold, Cold Heart’ on Kate Smith is a masterpiece. Although not much more than 6 months from death and suffering from excruciating back pain after surgery in December, Hank delivers every word of this masterpiece at the peak of his powers. There is a point in this video at the end when the camera comes right in close and Hank looks straight into the lens  and he knows Audrey is back home watching and he just lays it out with  devastating force. The woman could never have been the same after that night.

Here it is:

Many would say ‘I Can’t Help It if I’m Still in Love with You’ is Hank’s greatest. It’s one of his masterpieces of concise poignant language, and the creation of images and situations which say more than words and stay with you forever: “Today I passed you on the street, And my heart fell at your feet”.

This video is very short. Obviously this song had to be cut to face the time restraints of live TV. It’s a duet with the magnificent Anita Carter with her  pure beautiful voice and expression. Many will recall that later she became a frequent duet partner with Hank Snow and they produced many memorable recordings.

The song begins with Anita alone, then Hank comes on the set and sings ‘Someone new stood by your side and he looked so satisfied’. I’ve always thought this was one of the most beautifully delivered lines in the Hank Williams’ canon.

This video was made about 8 months from Hank’s death. Notice as he comes into view, you can see how thin he is, as his left shoulder-blade almost seems visible under his shirt.

As mentioned Hank sang in group settings at the Kate Smith Show. You can easily find the closing cast rendition of ‘I Saw the Light’ on You Tube.

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The recent comment on this site by Citizen K reminded me of the great feature he has started on his blog (link on the right). He’s leading off his blog with the first lines of a written work. And this reminded me of a first line story from Jimmy Webb.

The famous composer of popular and serious music wrote a book in 1998 called  “Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting.”

Here’s the first parasgraph of his Wikipedia entry.

Jimmy Layne Webb is an American songwriter. His compositions include “Up, Up, and Away,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” and “MacArthur Park”. His songs have been recorded or performed by Glen Campbell, The Fifth Dimension, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Bob Dylan, among others. According to BMI, his song “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” was the third most performed song in the fifty years between 1940 to 1990.[1] He is the only artist to have ever received Grammy Awards for music, lyrics, and orchestration.[2]

A few years ago a CBC (public radio similar to NPR) radio program in Canada did about an hour long tribute to Jimmy Webb, with a lot of his songs, biography, lengthy interview including comments about his songwriting book.

Near the end, the host said I’m going to fire a few quicky questions at you. Webb agreed. One of those questions was this: “What is the best opening line of any song you have ever heard?”

Webb instantly replied: “That’s easy:

Today,

I passed you,

On the street.

And my heart,

Fell at your feet.

And that’s my Hank Williams first line story, with a hat tip to Citizen K.

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