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What I Missed: Hank Williams

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 01:31 PM

I am a city boy – always have been. And so country music has long been my musical blind spot. Now, I have to say, in my own defense, that country music itself is at least partially responsible for my longtime ignorance: all that slick, overproduced Nashville stuff tends to overwhelm the real, raw sounds of classic country. Any time I gave country music a try, what I heard seemed to reinforce the image I had of rednecks singing about their pickup trucks, their gun racks, and their dogs. And how, surprise surprise, their women had left them. Oh, and God bless the USA, I’ll have another Miller Lite.

And so it was that I was well into my 30s before it began to dawn on me that maybe I should give this Hank Williams fellow a little attention. Of course, I knew “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” which some critic had called “the most perfect song ever written.” But how could any song hope to live up to that? To me, it was just another weepy exercise in self-pity, so I just thought, “well, that’s Hank Williams,” and that was that. I now understand that when the old definition of “country music” was coined – “Three chords and the truth” – it was coined exactly for the type of songs Hank Williams wrote: “Long Gone Lonesome Blues,” or “Lost Highway,” or even “Jambalaya” (yes, he wrote that). This guy was the original punk, except he wrote country songs. And I’d been giving him a miss all those years.

It happens to most of us, if we listen to music long enough: you find that you’d missed the boat on some singer or band, and now they’re in the Most Played folder on your iPod, and you regret the years you did NOT spend listening to them. For me, it was Hank Williams. Who was it for you?

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Comments [7]

Richard Goldberg

Fortunately the music I've missed is everywhere. I hear it coming from vans and windows as I bicycle through the city. Souvenir stand vendors in Egypt and Morocco shove it into my hand as I walk past them. And every stoop sale in Brooklyn beckons with unknown CD's for a dollar.

Umm Kalthum, David Grisman, Bill Staines, Andre "Bacon Fat" Williams, Allan Jaffe, David Ippolito, the Eroica Quartet...everywhere.

Sep. 18 2008 10:34 AM
tom

In early April of 2007, CBC Television broadcast an Avril Lavigne concert from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

I was vaguely aware of her before that, having viewed the odd clip and interview etc.; however, after watching this amazingly talented artist, singing many of her popular songs; I realized that I had missed the past 5 years of her outstanding career.

As a matter of fact, my appreciation reached the stage, of wanting to share my discovery with other seniors, like myself; and consequently, I started the SENIORS FOR AVRIL FAN CLUB @ URL: http://avril.rules.it/

And yes, I have also been a fervent Hank Williams Sr. fan, since the age of eight, in 1953.

Sep. 18 2008 03:09 AM
Mavi

Just discovered this band from late seventies Wash. DC the Urban Verbs - pre fugazi et al-- I love the CD's really ahead of thier time.

Sep. 17 2008 02:40 PM
Stephen Anthony Davis

Way back in 1973 at a George Washington University concert in D.C., I booed George Benson who was performing solo as his band and stage equiptment had missed a flight. I was a jazz aficianado and really loved George Bensons guitar work on his first album, "Ode to a Kudue", but I didn't appreciate Benson's singing at the time!

Sep. 17 2008 02:35 PM
Eric

in the fall of 91, i had enough money to see one show in syracuse ny. there were two shows in town that weekend. i made the obvious choice and went to see suicidal tendencies with queensryche. i guess i should have gone to see the the other show. red hot chili peppers i had heard of, but the two bands opening... the smashing pumpkins and some band called pearl jam were unknown to me.

Sep. 17 2008 02:35 PM
Greg Brown Kent, NY

As a student at SUNY Purchase in 1976 or '77 I was walking past the small auditorium in the Humanities building. I had left my studio in the art department because of a power outage on campus. There was a concert in this auditorium that had been interrupted by the same outage. The students were jeering the warm up band to get off the stage and let Aztec Two Step play. Not being a fan of theirs I kept on walking and passed up an opportunity to see the little known warm up band try to struggle through an unexpected acoustic set. The warm up band was The Talking Heads.

Sep. 17 2008 02:25 PM
Andrew

Not from the music side but the business side: My cousin met some rapper wanna-be and started selling shirts at his concert. My cousin ended up started the shirt company Vokal, which then turned into Apple Bottom Jeans...the rapper= Nelly.

Sep. 17 2008 02:14 PM

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