March 05, 2015 08:02 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

  • Miners arrive to help with the rescue effort in Zasyadko coal mine in Donetsk March 4, 2015. A blast at the coal mine in the eastern Ukrainian rebel stronghold of Donetsk killed more than 30 people, a local official said on Wednesday, with dozens more min

    Audio At Least 33 Dead in Ukraine Mine Explosion

    A coal mine exploded early Wednesday in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. Also in the news, the US Justice Department released its Ferguson police department report; China has announced it will increase its military spending by 10 percent; and Mexico captured a Zetas drug leader. More

  • Video UK Group Brings Eyeglasses to Rwanda

    Most people in developed countries do not have a problem getting prescription eyeglasses. They go to an ophthalmologist -- a trained specialist who treats problems and diseases of the eye. But in poor countries like Rwanda, it may take a lot more time, effort and money. More

  • FILE -  People sit by a tent at a makeshift camp in Calais, northern France, Sept. 7, 2014.

    Audio Paris Tent Camp a Sign of Troubles Facing Asylum Seekers

    France has Europe’s second largest number of asylum seekers. Rights activists have criticized the France's treatment of asylum seekers. The most recent criticism came from the Council of Europe, Europe’s top rights group. Now, French lawmakers are considering a plan to improve the asylum process. More

  • FILE - A construction crew works on a site where a new hospital is planned, in Navua, Fiji.

    Audio China's Aid to South Pacific Rises

    A new report says China alone has provided $1.4 billion in foreign aid to the South Pacific region. The researchers say China is likely to become the region's third-biggest donor after Australia and the United States. It says the aid might help ease tensions between China and countries in the area. More

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 3, 2015.

    Audio Israeli PM: Iran Nuclear Talks Are a ‘Very Bad Deal’

    Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to US lawmakers Tuesday. Also in the news, Sec. of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif meet for a second day to discuss Iran's nuclear program; Russia blocks European leaders from Nemtsov funeral; and North Korea says joint military exercises could spark war More

Featured Stories

  • FILE - An embryologist works on a petri dish at a London fertility clinic.

    Audio 'Three-Person Babies' Debate Goes Beyond Science and Religion

    Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy uses the genetic material from three people to create babies. The stated purpose of the therapy is to help mothers avoid passing genetic mutations to their babies. Some say MRT will lead to 'designer babies.' Others say it is dangerous, immoral or just wrong. More

  • Steam and smoke is seen over the coal burning power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009. Coal power plants are among the biggest producer of CO2, that is supposed to be responsible for climate change.

    Audio Capturing CO2 Is Costly and Difficult

    Most scientists agree that increasing amounts of carbon-dioxide gas in the atmosphere is partly to blame for climate change. Climate change can have a big effect on weather conditions around the world. Scientists are looking for the best and least costly methods for capturing the gas. More

  • Kerry and Declan Reichs (Courtesy Photo)

    Video Choosing to Be a Single Mother

    U.S. officials say birth rates for unmarried women over age 40 have been rising in recent years. In fact, the rate in 2012 was almost 30 percent higher than just five years earlier. There are single mothers by choice. They are generally older, successful, well-educated, and financially secure. More

  • Audio Young Writer’s Plays Explore Race, Identity in America

    Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' latest play 'An Octoroon,' is showing at a theater in New York City. It is based on a 19th Century work by Dion Boucicault. It tells about a white man who falls in love with a woman who is part black. At the time, mixed race marriage was banned in southern US states. More

  • Audio Understanding the Misunderstood Teenage Brain

    A common battle cry of teenagers to adults is, "You just don't understand me!" Well, they might be right. A brain scientist (neuroscientist) and mother to two teenagers says the teenage brain is quite different from the adult brain. She "debunks," or clears up three common myths about teenagers. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner blog
Confessions of an English Learner blog

 

 

 

Tell us About Our Programs