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Music / Hank Williams

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I'm a rolling stone, all alone and lost...

In the early 20th century a team of explorers led by Professor Hank Williams, Ph.D., stumbled across the Shroud of Turin in Italy. When they touched it, they became possessed with the spirit of Country. They brought it back to America, which was the right thing to do. Williams then invented a time machine and travelled back in time in order to use country music to inspire the American Revolution.

There are important Country Music artists, then there's Hank Williams.

Hiram "Hank" Williams (September 17, 1923 - January 1, 1953) was an American musician who left an impact on the country music scene that few others before or since have ever made even before his signing to MGM Records in 1946, he was heralded as a talent worth watching with his unique style of "direct, emotional lyrics" and strong honky-tonk influences. Some of his best-known songs are "Lovesick Blues", "Cold, Cold Heart", "Hey, Good Lookin'", "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)", "Kaw-Liga" and "Your Cheatin' Heart." His band was known as the Drifting Cowboys.

Williams had spina bifida occulta, a congenital condition in which his spinal column was not completely closed, but the splits in the vertebrae were not large enough to expose his spinal cord. Most people with that condition show no symptoms. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Williams; he suffered from severe back pain throughout his life. Making matters even worse, his back was further damaged by two serious falls, one as a teenager and the other in late 1951; not even spinal fusion surgery shortly after the second fall helped his situation.

Not surprisingly, he turned to self-medication. Even before his career went into overdrive he struggled with alcoholism. This drinking problem was combined with a morphine addiction that caused his personal life to deteriorate sharply at the turn of The '50s. His extremely tumultuous marriage to the headstrong Audrey Sheppard Williams finally ended in divorce, with Audrey getting custody of their son Hank Williams Jr. (later a country star in his own right, and father of Hank Williams III, another notable singer and musician noted for his strong resemblance to his grandfather). His myriad of personal problems led directly to his backing band The Drifting Cowboys splitting up, his producer Fred Rose stopping his support for him, and his getting fired from the Grand Ole Opry, all of which only pushed him to dive further and further into alcoholism and other drug abuse. At the end, in the early morning hours of January 1, 1953, Hank Williams was found dead while the car he was riding in was stopped in Oak Hill, West Virginia on his way to a concert in Canton, Ohio. His death, less than three months after his 29th birthday, was determined to be from heart failure. Incidentally, the last song he ever wrote was titled "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive."

Tom Hiddleston portrayed Williams in the 2016 biopic I Saw the Light. The production received the rights to Williams' entire musical library, and Hiddleston did his own singing in the part.

Albums with Pages on TV Tropes

Hank Williams provides examples of:

  • Accentuate the Negative: Williams' music shows a recurring theme of breakups, lovesickness, loneliness, neglect, being refused,...
  • Alter-Ego Acting: Luke the Drifter, his persona for his spoken-word pieces, who he would introduce as his friend or his half-brother during performances.
  • Badass Boast: "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)".
  • Biopic: Five films were made of his life: Your Cheatin' Heart (1964), Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave (1980), Hank Williams First Nation (2004), The Last Ride (2011), and I Saw The Light (2015). There was also a script for an unproduced film, titled Eight Scenes From the Life of Hank Williams.
  • Break Up Song: A good chunk of his catalog counts, especially "Your Cheatin' Heart", "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do)?" and "My Love For You (Has Turned To Hate)".
  • B-Side: Some of his most important songs were originally B-sides, like "Lost Highway" (the flip of "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)") and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (of "My Bucket's Got a Hole In It"). Many of his singles could be considered examples of a double A-side single, often pairing a sad song and an uptempo number, with both sides scoring big on the country chart ("Cold Cold Heart"/"Dear John"; "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)"/"Howlin' at The Moon"; "You Win Again"/"Settin' The Woods on Fire"), and topped off by both sides of "Kaw-Liga" and "Your Cheatin' Heart" hitting #1.
  • Child Prodigy: He started busking on the streets at age 10, and starred in a regular show on his hometown radio station when he was 14.
  • Country Music: Along with Johnny Cash the most iconic and influential artist in the genre.
  • Cradle of Loneliness: "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", "May You Never Be Alone", "Alone and Forsaken".
  • Drowning My Sorrows: "There's A Tear In My Beer".
  • Grief Song: "Angel Of Death".
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    Pick guitar, fill fruit jar, and be gay-o,
    Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou!
  • It Will Never Catch On: He recorded his Cover Version of "Lovesick Blues" (best-known to country audiences from Rex Griffin's version) over the objections of his producer Fred Rose as well as his band, noting the rapturous response he'd gotten when he'd recently done the song in front of live audiences. It ended up as his biggest hit.
  • Jukebox Musical: Hank Williams: Lost Highway.
  • One-Man Song: "Ramblin' Man", "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy".
  • Protest Song: A rare example was "No No Joe" (which Williams didn't write), a lighthearted tune that was aimed at Josef Stalin at the start of The Cold War.
  • Questioning Title?: "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do)?"
  • The Savage Indian: "Kaw-Liga" musically evokes this trope with its pounding drums and whoops, but it's actually a whimsical tale of a wooden Indian statue at an antique shop in love with an Indian Maiden statue. Williams himself had some Cherokee and Creek ancestry.
  • Self-Deprecation: This was a major part of his stage banter, and a lot of observers (like his wife Audrey) thought it was his secret weapon that helped add to his charm and charisma. A good example is in a radio commercial he did for a songwriters' guide he published, talking with Grand Ole Opry announcer Grant Turner.
    Grant Turner: Right in the front of this book is a full-page picture of Hank Williams, suitable for framing. Hank, I think that adds a lot to the book.
    Hank Williams: Well, Grant, I don't know about that. But if any of the folks are bothered with crows gettin' in their corn, it might come in mighty handy to help scare them critters away.
  • Singer-Songwriter: He was something of a Trope Maker, since not only was he a singer who wrote most of his own material, he was also noted for having a very distinct songwriting "voice" and style.
  • Something Blues: "Lovesick Blues", "Moanin' the Blues", "Honky Tonk Blues", "Weary Blues From Waiting".
  • Wanderlust Song: "Rambling Man".

In popular culture

  • Cars: My Heart Would Know can faintly be heard in the background when Radiatior Springs is shown for the first time.
  • The Shawshank Redemption: After returning from his solitary confinement stay due to the loudspeaker incident, Andy is playfully teased by Heywood, who says he would have preferred if he played "something good", like Hank Williams, to which he apologizes by saying they stopped him before he could take requests. Then, many years later, after having substantially improved the library, Andy finally manages to fulfill Heywood's request by amassing a substantial collection of Hank Williams' records.
  • The Residents scored their only underground dance hit in 1986 with "Kaw Liga", a cover of Hank Williams to the bassline of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean.
  • His songs made up the bulk of the soundtrack for The Last Picture Show.
  • His final song, "I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive" was the theme to HBO's The Life & Times of Tim