The Austin Chronicle

Gift Guide: Rock & Roll Books

Hank: The Short Life & Long Country Road of Hank Williams

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, December 9, 2016, Music

Hank Williams refuses to die. Truly remarkable that the slim, alcoholic, Alabama-born country great's life still mesmerizes despite his death on New Year's Eve 1953 at the age of 29. Credit plainspoken songs "Hey Good Lookin'," "Cold, Cold Heart," "Move It on Over," and hundreds more. Over the decades, many books attempted this tale, the most prestigious written by noted music historians Chet Flippo (in 1981) and Colin Escott (1994). Mark Ribowsky, known for biographies on Motown acts and sports figures, updates the story a bit with new interviews from some of the few still alive who remember the hillbilly king and adds to the discography recent box sets. There's even mention of biopic I Saw the Light, released to withering reviews this past spring. Ribowsky never brings Williams to life, focusing on his drinking and the resulting strains on his relationships in a manner that feels tawdry. Instead, Williams' mother Lillie and wife Audrey are more fully drawn, conniving to make the singer a success while battling their own demons and each other as well.

Hank: The Short Life & Long Country Road of Hank Williams

by Mark Ribowsky
Liveright, 496 pp., $29.95

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