By Mark Ribowsky
Hank Williams is known for being a one of the sacred pillars of country music and the patriarch of a musical dynasty that has seen his son and grandson follow into the family business.Yet this is so much more to him than that.
Although the tragedy of Williams hard drinkin’ ands rough and tumble lifestyle has been well documented, Mark Ribowsky’s new biography “Hank: The Short Life and Long Country Road of Hank Williams” is the first really comprehensive account of the singer and his career.
He astutely goes through the motions of pointing out how Williams was an artist who initially tapped into the vein of rural America with themes of heartache, love, sorrow and the struggle of everyday life. As noted, as his success grew more into the mainstream Williams’ flaws were amplified, causing irreparable damage to his family life and career.
Despite his ascension to fame, Williams could not handle his temper, his temptations or his alcohol. This deadly cocktail, combined with his genius as a songwriter makes him a fascinating character study.
The really sad part is that Williams went off the rails at a time when he was at his artistic peak when he had his formative years ahead of him.
Using new sources and archived material, Ribowsky digs in, moving beyond the basics of Williams’ ascent as a picker from the impoverished Deep South into his rise as an American music pioneer. Not shying away from the ugly truth, Ribowsky delves into his relationships with those around him, including his friends, wife and family, leading the readers to more than his music, while unearthing his highs, lows and rambunctious hell raising.
“Hank” is a tragedy of self-destruction and creative genius at conflict. It gives the reader a complex portrait of an artist who rose abject poverty to the stage of Nashville's sacred Grand ‘Ole Opry, catapulting him to a fame before his untimely death at the age of 29 in1953.