Hank Williams, Sr., Part Two

Because of his centrality to the form, we need to spend a little more time with Hank Williams, Sr.

Although he was the exemplar for the hard country songs, he also sang songs rooted in the gospel music that was one of the two main streams of traditional country music.

This music has always been eschatological in the South.  The world will melt away in the fires, so soon to come, that will rain down from Heaven.

And we all know who is the rider of the pale horse:

Hear him cite book, chapter and verse in this song.  It's from 1949.  It makes some sense, at the hour of the start of the long Cold War.

So we must understand this tension to be at the root of the music he is building.  It is built around a sincere faith, but also it is rooted in an honest admission of sin.  He does not claim to be better than he is.  He does not think that his sins prove his strength.  This honest speech is the root of the power of his song.


Dad29 said...


Conversely, the Beach Boys (and other rockers prior to ~1965) were not really into 'admission of sin.' Their work was far more secular, albeit Elvis was definitely aware of faith-stuff.

Grim said...

Elvis sang a lot of gospel, too. He was good at it.

I think this is one of the two basic divisions that explain the difference between the two forms. As we move through the 60's and 70's you'll see a lot more of the rebellion that characterized the period. But whereas rock-n-roll celebrated drugs and wild sex as a kind of hedonistic good-in-itself, country music remained certain that it was sin. It is what brought Johnny Cash to redemption; and for him, too, it was a source of great power in his music.

Grim said...

Hey, speaking of Elvis' gospel music, how about a YouTube recording of every single gospel song he ever did? It's more than seven hours long!

douglas said...

Hmm, I may have to dig out that old CD I have of Elvis Gospel and listen to it again...