Williams' songs still resonate


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By Reggie Ponder

Thursday, January 17, 2019

I became fascinated with Hank Williams around seventh or eighth grade.

I’m not talking about Junior or “Bocephus,” although I took a liking to “Country State of Mind” and some of his other songs as we moved into the 1980s.

But in the mid-1970s I was all about Hank Williams, the one who died way too young in the early 1950s and traveled the country with the Drifting Cowboys band.

My friends made fun of me for fancying “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It” and “Lovesick Blues” when they were learning the latest disco dance steps or bopping to the latest Elton John rocker.

As I have grown older I have come to appreciate Hank Williams even more as I realize how powerfully he connected with audiences through heartfelt lyrics. He wrote about life and especially about loss and loneliness in ways that established a personal kind of bond with individual audience members that few performers have been able to achieve.

When people said they felt as if Hank Williams was singing directly to them, they really meant it.

It’s still the case, of course, that Hank Williams was before my time. He died a dozen years before I was born. I had never even heard of him until I saw a paperback biography in third or fourth grade and found the story interesting.

But gradually I learned more about them and then started to listen to some of his songs. They seemed to speak to the way life is actually lived, which was a bit of a departure from much of the rock and pop music that was around in the 70s.

Even in elementary school and middle school, when I had not yet experienced most of the challenges and heartbreak that make life what it is, I could tell there was something different and special about the songs Hank Williams sang.

That doesn’t mean he ever became my true favorite. I was, and still am, partial to the mainstream country stars of the late 60s, the 70s and the early 80s. I would pick Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Charlie Pride, Merle Haggard, Alabama, Don Williams, George Strait, George Jones, Marty Robbins, Ray Price, Johnny Rodriguez and Conway Twitty over most any other group of singers before or since if given a simple choice.

But I also realize that music had to come from somewhere.

And the more I look, the more I see it came from the Carter Family, Charlie Poole, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills and a handful of other pioneers.

And then Hank Williams came along and shined a light on what the future could look like for this kind of music.

Reggie Ponder is a staff writer for The Daily Advance.