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An abundance of talent and a lifetime of loneliness.

  • Dec 22, 2009
Rating:
+5
Such were the circumstances in the life of the acknowledged "Father of country music" Hank Williams.  It is certainly hard to believe that Hank has been gone for more nearly 60 years now.  In "Lovesick Blues:  The Life of Hank Williams" author Paul Hemphill lovingly recalls the tortured life of this man and the incredible body of work he left for us to enjoy.
 
Young Hank Williams first appeared on the scene at Montgomery radio station WSFA in 1937. Known as "The Singing Kid" the youngster who would become a country music legend impressed everyone with his vocal prowess.  Young Hank was also among the first in the business to recognize the potential of the steel guitar.  In fact, the very first incarnation of Hank's backup group known as the Drifting Cowboys would include that strange looking guitar of Hawaiian heritage.  At a very early age Hank Williams was determined to make it in the music business. And as Paul Hemphill points out again and again it would be a very rocky road indeed.

The fact of the matter is that Hank William's personal life was a mess. That's just the was it always was and the way it would always be.  His father Lon disappeared from the scene when Hank was just a young whippersnapper.  His mother Lillie was extremely overbearing and Hank developed a taste for liquor at an extremely young age.  Unfortunately, the scourge of alcoholism would plague him for the rest of his days.  In addition, he had any number of physical problems to cope with.  And his marriage to Audrey certainly did not help matters.  Like his mother Audrey was extremely demanding and what made matters worse was that she was also an aspiring singer.  Unfortunately for Hank his wife could not sing a lick.  When he refused to let her perform with him she made his life absolutely unbearable.  I found it very painful just reading about all of the physical and psychological pain that Hank Williams had to endure in his life.  I simply cannot imagine actually having to live through it all.

Ironically, it was all of the pain and the suffering he had to face during his short time on this earth that made Hank Williams such a special songwriter and singer.  Truck drivers, drug store clerks and farmers could all relate to many of the situations Hank Williams wrote about.  And you could definitely hear the pain in that voice. There was no doubt that Hank Williams had been through it all. Tunes like "Your Cheatin' Heart", "Cold Cold Heart" and "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)" would go on to become country music classics.

"Lovesick Blues:  The Life of Hank Williams" takes a fresh look at the life and times of Hank Williams. This is an extremely written book by a veteran writer who is quite familiar with both the country music scene and life in the South during that period.  I would not hesitate to recommend this book to music lovers, history buffs and general audiences as well.  Outstanding!
An abundance of talent and a lifetime of loneliness. An abundance of talent and a lifetime of loneliness. An abundance of talent and a lifetime of loneliness. An abundance of talent and a lifetime of loneliness.

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About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Publishers Weekly

This concise, startling biography starts not with its subject, Hank Williams, but with its author sitting in the cab of his father's truck one day in 1949, hearing Williams sing "like a hurt animal." The brief incident immediately binds Hemphill and Williams (1923-1952) together as children of the rural South, united by the places and circumstances from which they came (Hemphill has written four novels and 11 nonfiction works dealing with the blue-collar South). Hemphill shifts from his own childhood to Williams's vagabond youth with scintillating descriptions of Depression-era Alabama. Against this backdrop, Hemphill tells the story of Williams's boyhood, which involved constant movement from town to town, infrequent school attendance and jobs as a shoe-shine boy and street performer. Williams's subsequent rise, from "Singing Kid" novelty to headliner at the Grand Ole Opry, could seem like a cliche, but Hemphill's descriptions of the "places where a chicken-wire fence separated the band from the crowd" lend a gritty reality. This frankness extends to the depiction of Williams's chronic alcoholism, violent marital troubles and lonely, sudden death at age 29. With the end of Williams's life, the book turns back to its author, as an older, wiser Hemphill recounts some of the sorrows of his own life. The connection between author and subject is what makes this book so rewarding. Agent, Sterling Lord. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Details

ISBN-10: 0143037714
ISBN-13: 978-0143037712
Author: Paul Hemphill
Genre: Biographies and Memoirs
Publisher: Penguin
Date Published: August 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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