Hank Williams
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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La figura da culto di Hank Williams domina la scena degli artisti country del Dopoguerra.

Nato in Alabama nel 1923, il padre un invalido di guerra, la madre un'organista di chiesa, ottenne la prima chitarra che era ancora bambino e a undici anni partecipava gia` alle danze del sabato sera in un cantiere ferroviario. L'anno dopo suonava agli angoli delle strade con un cantante nero, vendeva noccioline e lucidava scarpe. Nessuna meraviglia quindi che a 14 anni vincesse un concorso e venisse assunto da una radio locale per esibirsi due volte la settimana. Inizio` cosi` a girare i paesi dell'Alabama su un furgone guidato dalla madre, che gli faceva anche da manager, in compagnia di un regolare complesso country.

A Nashville arrivo` nel 1944, quando (ventunenne) era gia` un veterano del circuito folk. Nel 1947 incise la prima canzone, Move It On Over (april 1947), per la ditta di Acuff e Rose, e due anni dopo il lamentoso traditional Lovesick Blues (december 1948) (lo yodeling di un ubriaco accompagnato da una chitarra hawaiana) lo catapultava in testa alle classifiche di vendita. Al "Grand Ole Opry" dovette dare ben sei bis. A quell'hit ne seguirono altri simili, fra tutti You're Gonna Change (march 1949).

Ma la stagione del successo fu brevissima perche', martoriato da dolori alla schiena, divenne sempre piu` succube dell'alcool e della droga. Nel 1952, alcoolizzato, divorziato e licenziato, era un uomo finito, abbandonato da tutti. Quattro mesi dopo, nel 1953, moriva di overdose a soli 29 anni.

Lasciava un repertorio (registrato nell'arco di soli sei anni, dal 1947 alla morte) di canzoni intense, venate di yodel alla Jimmie Rodgers e di trobadorato blues, ma riscattate da un lirismo visionario senza precedenti nel repertorio cronicamente malinconico del country, alcune nella tradizione della ballata (Cold Cold Heart, december 1950; Why Don't You Love Me, january 1950; Your Cheating Heart, september 1952; la mistica I Saw The Light, april 1947), altre piu` honkytonk (Moaning The Blues, august 1950; Long Gone Lonesome Blues, january 1950) e altre ancora piu` blues (So Lonesome I Could Cry, august 1949; I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, june 1952).

Alle quali si aggiugono alcuni brani rock ante litteram (Move It On Over, april 1947; Honkytonking, august 1947; Howlin' At The Moon, march 1951, Hey Good Looking, march 1951), suonati con uno stile chitarristico fra i piu` imitati negli anni seguenti.

D'altro canto il personaggio Hank Williams aveva anticipato di fatto il movimento degli outlaw, sfidando, con il suo sprezzo per la morale, le convenzioni di Nashville e il conformismo del Sud.

Dopo la morte le sue canzoni postume stazionarono a lungo ai vertici delle classifiche, e alcune (il cajun Jambalaya, june 1952; Kawliga, september 1952) segnalavano una nuova ispirazione sensibile al fascino delle musiche delle minoranze etniche.

(Translated by Ornella C. Grannis)

The cult figure Hank Williams dominated the country scene of the post-war period.

Born in Alabama in 1923 to a disabled war veteran and a church organist, Williams got his first guitar in early childhood. At eleven he was already performing at the Saturday nights dances at the local railroad yard. A year later he was playing street corners with a black singer. He also sold peanuts and shined shoes. At 14, to nobody's surprise, he won a competition and was hired by a local radio station to perform twice a week. He began to tour the state of Alabama with a country band, in a pick-up driven by his mother, who was also his manager.

Williams arrived in Nashville already a veteran of the country circuit, in 1944. In 1947 he recorded his first song for the label Acuff and Rose. Two years later, the traditional lament Lovesick Blues (december 1948) - drunken yodeling accompanied by Hawaiian guitar - catapulted him to the top of the charts. At the "Grand Ole Opry" he gave six encores. That hit was followed by many others, such as You're Gonna Change (march 1949).

Unfortunately his season of success was very brief. Plagued by backaches, Williams became an alcoholic and a drug addict. In 1952, after losing his wife, his job and abandoned by all, he was a finished man. Four months later, in 1953, he was dead of an overdose, at thirty.

He left a repertoire, recorded in only six years - from 1947 to his death - of intense songs, infused with yodels in the style of Jimmie Rodgers, wrapped in blues and delivered with an unprecedented visionary lyricism for the chronically melancholic country genre. Some of his songs were in tradition of the ballad - Cold Cold Heart (december 1950), Why Don't You Love Me (january 1950), Your Cheating Heart (september 1952), I Saw The Light (april 1947), others more honkytonk - Moaning The Blues (august 1950), Long Gone Lonesome Blues (january 1950), others more blues - So Lonesome I Could Cry (august 1949), I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (june 1952). Not to be forgotten are the prototype country songs, played in a style often imitated in the years that followed - Move It On Over (april 1947), Honkytonking (august 1947), Howlin' At The Moon (march 1951).

Hank Williams started the outlaw movement, challenging the southern conformist stance and the conventions of Nashville.

After his death his songs remained a long while at the top of the charts. Jambalaya (june 1952) and Kawliga (september 1952) signaled a new sensitivity to the charming music of ethnic minorities.

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