Monday, December 29, 2014

Hank Williams, Pulitzer Prize Winner

Ever since he died alone and forsaken in the back seat of a white Cadillac at 29 on New Year's Day in 1953, Hank Williams' deserved reputation as a genius songwriter has been steadily on the rise. Hank Sr. has long been the benchmark standard of country music authenticity, a patron saint whose name is evoked whenever attempts to raise the music above its roots bring on an identity crisis. Waylon Jennings' 1975 hit "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?," is Exhibit A.

Hank Williams, Pulitzer Prize Winner

Ever since he died alone and forsaken in the back seat of a white Cadillac at 29 on New Year's Day in 1953, Hank Williams' deserved reputation as a genius songwriter has been steadily on the rise. Hank Sr. has long been the benchmark standard of country music authenticity, a patron saint whose name is evoked whenever attempts to raise the music above its roots bring on an identity crisis. Waylon Jennings' 1975 hit "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?," is Exhibit A.

As he predicted in song, Williams never got out of this world alive, but now he has at least received a Pulitzer Prize in death. Ol' Hank joined Thelonious Monk (2006) John Coltrane (2007) and Bob Dylan (2008), as winners of a special Pulitzer musical citation for "his craftsmanship as a songwriter who expresed universal feelings with piognant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life."  No argument here, nor with the claim made, in the Pulitizer press release that Williams' songs such as "Cold, Cold Heart" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" "reflected the hopes and struggles of everyday Americans" and "became the measure by which country music is judged." Nice one, Pulitzers. Now how about handing one out to George Jones while he's still alive?

Previously: Refugee All-Stars at the World Cafe Live

Dan DeLuca Inquirer Music Critic
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