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Afterglow Jazz and American Popular Song

The Hank Williams Songbook

Hank Williams may be the king of country music, but pop, jazz and R&B performers have seized upon a number of his songs over the past few decades.

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Hank Williams

Photo: Wikipedia

The music of Hank Williams began to cross popular-song boundaries even before the singer's untimely death in 1953.

Hank Williams is considered by many to be the godfather of country music—a legendary character who lived fast and died young, at the age of 29 in 1953.

He enjoyed wide commercial success for the last few years of his life, and he’s since become a mythical figure, referenced often in American popular culture. Even while he was still alive some of Williams’ songs had begun to appeal to others across the genre divide of what was then often called “hillbilly music,” and pop-jazz performers such as Rosemary Clooney, Jo Stafford, and Louis Armstrong began to record covers of his tunes.

In recent years singers Cassandra Wilson, Norah Jones, and Madeleine Peyroux have also included songs by Williams on their records. “The Hank Williams Songbook” features all of these artists, as well as several of Ray Charles’ Williams interpretations from both volumes of his Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.

Special thanks to Frank Lipsik and other members of the Yahoo Songbirds listserv, and to Greg Adams.

Read Jazzwax blogger Marc Myers’ review of the recent reissue of Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music albums.

Watch Norah Jones perform Williams’ tune “Cold, Cold Heart”:

Music Heard On This Episode

Your Cheatin' Heart
Louis Armstrong — Satchmo Serenades (Verve/Decca, 2000)
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Your Cheatin' Heart
Louis Armstrong — Satchmo Serenades (Verve/Decca, 2000)
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Hey Good Lookin'
Ray Charles — Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music, V. 1 and 2 (Concord, 2009)
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Cold, Cold Heart
Dinah Washington — Dinah Washington's Finest Hour (Verve, 2000)
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Jambalaya
Jo Stafford — The Columbia Hits Collection (Corinthian, 2002)
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Half As Much
Rosemary Clooney — Sweet Melody (North Star Music/Goldenrod, 2001)
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I'm Sorry For You My Friend
Buddy Greco — Modern Sounds of Hank Williams (Columbia/EMI, 1964)
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I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
Cassandra Wilson — New Moon Daughter (Blue Note, 1996)
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Weary Blues
Madeleine Peyroux — Careless Love (Rounder, 2004)
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Your Cheatin' Heart
James Brown — Soul On Top (Verve, 2004)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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You Win Again
Ray Charles — Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music V. 1 and 2 (Concord, 2009)
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Move It On Over
Ray Charles — Have a Smile With Me (Rhino/WEA, 1997)
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Lovesick Blues
Kay Starr — Magic of Kay Starr (EMI, 2007)
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Cool Water
Nellie Lutcher — Nellie Lutcher and Her Rhythm (Bear Family, 1996)
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Lost Highway
Ran Blake — Driftwoods (Tompkins Square, 2009)
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Hey Good Lookin'
Jo Stafford/Frankie Laine — Legendary Frankie Laine V. 1 (Prestige Elite, 2002)
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Cold, Cold Heart
Norah Jones — Come Away With Me (Blue Note, 2002)
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Your Cheatin' Heart
Ray Charles — Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music V. 1 and 2 (Concord , 2009)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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