What Have You Done For Hank Williams Today?
He was born on September 17, 1923. By January 1, 1953, he was gone. Today, most country singer-songwriters are just starting by the time they reach age 29. Hank had already left a legacy that would forever change the face of American music.
He was a young, impoverished son of the Alabama skies. He was gifted with song and soul. He was born with a blood spot on his lower back that his mother ignored due to lack of knowledge and resources. It could be argued, this was the seed of suffering that lured him into alcohol and drug abuse.
He carried his own pain in his own way. As an American troubadour, his way was through song, always with a guitar strum, a smile in his eye and a tear in his voice. For the music we call country today, he defined it. He wrote the book, published it and threw it away into the midnight wind.
Others found it, heard it in the lonely southern nights. Johnny Cash heard his song in the sound of prison bound trains. Townes Van Zandt saw its reflection in a bottle of whiskey and the madness in his soul. Willie found it inside some forgotten Texas honky-tonk. Emmylou carried it in the sweet hickory harmony of her voice. Patsy Cline took his words and soared them through the musical celestial heavens. It foreshadowed the Memphis Sun Studios and Elvis’ early sessions, but his influence was felt in every song.
Today his son and grandkids carry on his legacy with the same wild, humorous, joyful and sometimes painful determination he carried through his short life. People refer to Hank Jr. and Hank 111, but there is only one Hank Williams. There was only one lanky street singer from Alabama who carried such impact on American music, that we only need to say his first name to conjure up a treasure of American song. Hank. And in those four letters, just looking at them in print, I hear lonesome songs, the Louisiana bayou, heart-broken wooden indians, cheatin’ hearts, hot-rod Fords and two-dollar bills and Luke the Drifter and his tales of morality and truth.
There was the hope inside of each tune that allowed something deep within us to reach past our common pain into the heart of what’s real inside of us all; its in the song, the tear, the laughter, the life we yearn to live and the light we long to see. He saw the light. Hank caught these feelings in song. And since he was able to find that place within himself, we can all know, we can find the same within ourselves and each other. That’s what Hank has done for us all. Now, what have you done for Hank today? Maybe listen to a song or two….or even sing one…