In the 50-plus years since his untimely death, country music legend Hank Williams’ influence has only deepened. You don’t have to know that Tony Bennett, Jo Stafford and Joni James all struck crossover gold in the 1950s with Williams songs (“Cold Cold Heart, “Jambalaya” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” respectively) to feel his influence upon American popularmusic and contemporary songcraft.
But sadly the current country music scene he helped create shows no sign he ever existed. The mournful melodies and lyrics of songs like “I Can’t Help It” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” soulful vocals on everything from “Alone and Forsaken” to “Kaw-Liga” wouldn’t attract one bland country radio programmer today.
Who cares? His creative children are still out “Honky-Tonkin’,” from Bob Dylan to the Cowboy Junkies, Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty and Ryan Adams and his spiritual heirs still hear his voice wherever they are out on the “Lost Highway.”