September 01, 2015 22:19 UTC

Country and Western Singer Hank Williams Wrote Songs About Love and Heartbreak

(THEME)

VOICE ONE:

PEOPLE IN AMERICA -- a program in Special English by the Voice of America.

(THEME)

Every week at this time, we tell you a story about people who played a part in the history of the United States.  I'm Tony Riggs.  Today, Larry West and I tell the story of country and western singer and songwriter, Hank Williams.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

That was the record Hank Williams made when he first tried to interest recording companies in his music.  None of the companies liked it at the time.  But a few years later, the high sharp voice of Hank Williams would cut like a knife through the music world.  When he sang his songs, people listened.  They are still listening, long after his death.

VOICE ONE:

Hank Williams was born in nineteen twenty-three on a small farm near Mount Olive, Alabama.  Like most people at that time in the southern United States, the Williams family was poor.  Hank's father could not work.  He had been injured in World War One.  He spent many years in a hospital when Hank was a boy.

The Williams family did not own many things.  But it always had music.  Hank sang in church.  When he was eight years old, he got an old guitar and taught himself to play.  From then on, music would be the most important thing in his life.

VOICE TWO:

By the time Hank was fourteen, he had already put together his own group of musicians.  They played at dances and parties.  They also played at a small local radio station.  They were known as "Hank Williams and his Drifting Cowboys."

For more than ten years, Hank remained popular locally, but wasunknown nationally.  Then, in nineteen forty-nine, he recorded his first major hit record.  The song was "Lovesick Blues."

(MUSIC)

Hank Williams and his group performed "Lovesick Blues" on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry house in Nashville, Tennessee. People in the theater would not let him stop singing.  They made him sing the song six times.  After years of hard work, Hank Williams had become a star.

VOICE ONE:

Hank wrote many songs in the years that followed.  Singers are still recording them today.  They may sing the songs in the country and western style -- the way Hank wrote them.  Or they may sing them in other popular styles.  Either way, the songs will always be his.

Hank Williams wrote both happy songs and sad songs.  But the sad songs are remembered best.

When Hank sang a sad song, those who listened knew it was about something that had happened to him.  Somehow, he was able to share his feelings in his music.  One of the most famous of these sad songs is "Your Cheatin' Heart."  One music expert said: "Your Cheatin' Heart" is so sad, it sounds like a judge sentencing somebody to a punishment worse than death itself.”

(MUSIC)

"Your Cheatin' Heart" was written in the early nineteen fifties. It has been recorded by more than fifty singers and groups in almost every style of popular music.

VOICE TWO:

Many years after Hank Williams' death, new fans of his music have asked why he could put so much of his life into his songs.  There is no easy answer to that question.

Hank Williams had many problems during his life.  He and his wife Audrey did not have a happy marriage.  Many of his songs seemed to ask: “Why can't we make this marriage work?”  Many people knew that when Hank sang this song, "Cold Cold Heart", he was singing about his wife and their problems.  Those who had similar problems felt that Hank was singing about them, too.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Hank Williams drank too much alcohol.  Those who knew Hank Williams say he did not have the emotional strength to deal with his problems.  They say he often felt he had no control over his life.

Everything seemed to be moving too fast.  He could not stop.  And he could not escape.  He had money and fame.  But they did not cure his loneliness, his drinking, or his marriage problems.

Hank was always surrounded by people, especially after he became famous.  None, however, could break through the terrible sadness that seemed to follow him everywhere.  One song, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", expresses his feelings of loneliness.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

When Hank Williams began to record his songs, country and western music was not popular with most Americans.  It was the music of the poor farming areas of the South.  However, because Hank's songs told of real-life troubles with such great emotion, something unusual began to happen to his music.

Radio stations that had never played country and western music began to play Hank Williams' songs.  Famous recording stars who never sang country and western music began recording songs written by Hank Williams.  He had created a collection of music that stretched far past himself and his times.

Hank Williams' life and career were brief.  He died on New Year's Day, nineteen fifty-three.  He was twenty-nine years old.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

You have been listening to PEOPLE IN AMERICA, a program in Special English by the Voice of America.  Your narrators were Larry West and Tony Riggs.  PEOPLE IN AMERICA was written by Paul Thompson.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • Audio UN: Temple Destruction Is a 'Crime Against Civilization'

    A United Nations official says Islamic State militants have destroyed the Temple of Bel in the historic Syrian city of Palmyra. The head of the U.N.’s cultural agency is calling the destruction, an “intolerable crime against civilization.” More

  • Video Iran Seeking Foreign Visitors and Their Money

    The agreement between Iran and six world powers will ease financial restrictions on the Middle Eastern nation. Iranians hope that the end of travel restrictions will lead to more foreigners visiting the country. In London, travel agents say some people are already asking about how they can visit. More

  • Audio China's Manufacturing Slowdown Worries Investors

    Also, Europe struggles to deal with a migrant wave; President Obama urges action on climate change; Thai officials arrest a bombing suspect; and protests in Lebanon increase. More

  • Audio US Preparing Sanctions Against China

    The United States is preparing to act against Chinese who steal trade secrets using the Internet. The actions could freeze accounts and block the transfer of money. They would target thieves who use the Internet to steal U.S. trade secrets. More

  • Audio EU Officials to Hold Talks on Migrant Crisis

    The talks will involve home and justice ministers from EU member countries. Luxembourg, the EU’s current president, says the meeting will take place on September 14 in Brussels. The International Organization for Migration says more than 322,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea. More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Are You Too Smart for Your Own Good?

    If you think being smart is always a good thing, think again. Smart has many meanings. Read on to find out what they are and the surprising origin of the term Smart Aleck. More

  • Audio Everyday Grammar: Fun with Future Tenses

    English has several ways to talk about the future. It's one of the most flexible tenses in English. We visit some popular songs for examples of the future forms. Read and listen as the Everyday Grammar team shows you six ways to express an event in the future. You will not regret it! More

  • Video A Horseman in the Sky by Ambrose Bierce

    Carter Druse lived in Virginia, a southern state during the American Civil War. He had a tough decision to make - should he join the Confederate Army or the Union Army? Read this classic American Story to find out what decision he makes, and what it means to his father and fellow soldiers. More

  • Audio Betty Azar, 'Rock Star' of English Grammar

    It all started with a question from a student. The year was 1965. Betty Azar was teaching her first English as a Second Language class at the University of Iowa. A student from the Middle East asked Ms. Azar, “Why can’t I put a in front of water?’ As in ‘I drank a water.’” More

  • Audio Millions with Mental Illness Get Little or No Treatment

    The World Health Organization reports that hundreds of millions of people worldwide have a mental disorder. However, the WHO adds that most get little or no treatment. Learn the vocabulary needed to talk about this important study. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs