In Hank Williams we have the real thing - the true genuine article - a songwriter who was able to speak directly to the hearts and minds of his audience with songs that reflected the joy and pain of his short and troubled life.
Hank, or Hiriam, as he was christened, was born to a poor Alabama family in 1923. He had a weak spine, possibly spina bifida, and this frailty may have pushed the young boy towards music as an alternative to physical recreation. His meeting and friendship with Rufus Payne, a black Georgiana street musician, activated a latent musical talent, and probably a taste for the hard stuff.
Hank was ambitious, but it took decade of hard struggle on the circuit before he finally made it to the Grand Ole Opry, and on that June night in 1949 he took Nashville and the country music world by storm ( ironically not with one of his own songs, but an old Tin Pan Alley favourite, Lovesick Blues ). He was brought back for an unprecedented six encores, and his career took off.
But, as so often with Hank, trouble was just around the corner. Marital problems inflamed an already well-established drink habit, and his health and reputation soon began to suffer. In the three and a half years which he had left to live, with his personal life spinning out of control, he wrote a string of songs destined to become country classics.
On 1st January 1953, while being driven to a concert at Canton, Ohio, Hank died suddenly on the back seat of his Cadillac, the victim of quack potions, morphine and hard liquor. He was just 29.
At the time of his death one of his songs, I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, was at the top of the billboard charts. Some say this shows that Hank had a premonition of his own death. I very much doubt that this is so. Probably even more doubtful is that Hank could possibly have forseen his subsequent elevation to the status he has today as the most revered country music artist that ever lived.