July 02, 2015 18:17 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

  • President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, July 1, 2015.

    Audio U.S. and Cuba to Reopen Embassies

    Sec. of State John Kerry will travel to Havana to raise the U.S. flag over the first American embassy there in 50 years. Also in the news, Islamic State group claims attacks in Egypt’s Sinai; Liberian president calls new Ebola case “disturbing”; U.S. advances to Women's World Cup final. More

  • Audio Clash Reported at Border of Vietnam, Cambodia

    Cambodian and Vietnamese social media have been reporting on a clash along the border between the two countries. The fighting happened Sunday. Hundreds of Cambodians and Vietnamese were involved. At least 10 people were reported injured. More

  • A doctor points to an x-ray showing a pair of lungs infected with TB (tuberculosis) in Ladbroke Grove in London, England, Jan. 27, 2014.

    Audio Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Less Likely to Spread

    The number of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis cases is rising. Multi-drug-resistant TB results from a bacterium – a group of small living things that can cause disease. The bacterium is hard to kill because it has become resistant to two or more common antibiotics. More

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry - flanked by National Security Council Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf States Robert Malley, U.S. Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, and Eu

    Audio Iran Nuclear Talks Deadline Extended

    Also Tuesday, leaders of the US and Brazil promised to reduce carbon emissions and increase renewable energy use; China made a simiilar announcement; and another politician entered the US presidential race. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he will seek the Republican Party nomination. More

  • Audio Is There a ‘Skills Gap’ in US Job Market?

    8.7 million Americans are unemployed and 6.7 million are doing part-time work. But, many jobs remain vacant. Employers say many of those jobs are vacant because they cannot find people with the right skills to do the work. Some experts look at why that is the case and what to do about it. More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Sweet Potatoes as Medicine

    Researchers have helped to reduce a major health problem with a simple food – the orange sweet potato. A program created to help farmers grow the crop has unexpected and healthy results. Some reports say this is the first time an agricultural program has had a major effect on health. More

  • Video Robots Ready to Work in Restaurants

    For many years, machines have been doing work that people once did, including some difficult jobs. Search and rescue operations employ high technology robots. But there is another area that may soon take jobs traditionally held by human beings: the restaurant industry. More

  • Audio More American Fathers Stay Home to Raise Kids

    More and more fathers in the United States are trading in the traditional role of breadwinner -- the person earning money -- for the role of stay-at-home dad. Meet two fathers who have been on this road for the past decade. You can also learn some great words such as "clique" and "masculinity." More

  • Audio Don't Be Caught With Your Pants Down

    Are you too big for your boots? Do you often fly by the seat of your pants? Learn what these clothing expressions mean and so many others. You may be excited to get started but keep your shirt on! Be patient. All you have to do is click on this episode of Words and Their Stories. More

  • Video Everyday Grammar: Words Come and Go in English

    Part of the reason that English has grown as a world language is that it adjusts easily to change. Why do some words and phrases stay the same while others change? VOA guest editor David Sullivan shares his ideas on the changes he has seen in today's English. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs