Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams
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Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  264 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Hank Williams, the quintessential country music singer and songwriter, lived a life as lonesome, desolate, and filled with sorrow as his timeless songs. From Williams's dirt- poor beginnings as a sickly child to his emergence as a star of the Grand Ole Opry, Lovesick Blues is the definitive biography of the man and his music.

Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 29th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published September 1st 2005)
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Evan
I had no idea before reading this book that there were so many biographies of Williams out there, but quick glance at Amazon confirms this. This one by Paul Hemphill is the latest one, and I'm glad I picked it up for $2 on the clearance shelf at Half Price Books. I can't imagine that any of the other ones are better written or more thoughtful. Maybe some detail is missing that one might encounter in the longer bios, but this one gets at the essence, the faults and the art of the man while giving...more
Pete daPixie
In times gone by the early night sky gazers looked at the stars and thought they were distant camp fires, or souls of ancestors. Comets or hairy stars, on the other hand, were not so benign. Flashing, transcient, unpredictable and scary things.
Up in the skies of the planet Poptastic, even more so here in the 21st century, are beset copious twinkling heavenly bodies manufactured in a galaxy of mediocrity. Hank Williams was a blazing comet.
'Lovesick Blues' by Paul Hemphill, published 2005, documen...more
Corey Murray
Most of this book's detractors make the same argument - that it's a book that didn't need to be written. After all, Colin Escott already wrote the definitive biography on Hank Williams. What's more, Escott based his book mostly on original research, interviewing virtually everyone who ever knew Hank Williams. Hemphill admittedly based his work mostly on Escott's biography, as well as a few other published sources. But his book is still a worthwhile, shorter, biography of the king of country musi...more
Rachel Mcclellan
I choose to read this book because I like country music. Although, I didn't know it would be such a sad story. This story has a lot to do with the beginning of country music. Hank Williams was one of the people who started country music and was even turned away from the Grand Ole Opry. He died at a young age, however his son Hank Williams Junior carries on for all of us today. Hank Williams had a poor up bringing and a rough childhood, along with spina bifida. Due to the pain caused from his bac...more
Hal
Not knowing a great deal of the man or origin of his music it was time to get to know about Hank Williams and I'm glad I chose this book to make the acquaintance. I was initially surprised at how small the book was, but Paul Hemphill was able to pack the full life of this legendary man, spanning the 29 years quite well and credibly. Hemphill's roots are enough to make you believe he was someone the rode along with Hank on his raucous journey through life.

Most from my generation know little about...more
Donna
Paul Hemphill put in a lot of time and research to write this book. I am not really a true country music fan, but because country music is in part the history of the US working class, it's an important book for me to read (and of course, I love memoirs and biographies in general).

Williams grew up during the Depression. Whereas some who would be music stars gave up a great deal for their shot at fame, Williams had nothing to lose. His father had departed, and his mother was a bully and a user who...more
Travis
I have read a couple of Hank Biographies. This one is my favorite because you feel the authors admiration for Hank in the pages. In the beginning he talks about hisdiscovery of Hank Williams as a boy riding along with his dad in a freight truck. My discovery of Hank was a little different but none the less every bit as important and life changing as his own. The book is very insightful without making you feel like your reading a textbook.
Tony Nielsen
This book had the privilege of being my 80th of the year, which means I met my reading goal. Yay.
I've always wanted to know more about Hank Williams, a music legend who looms large in history, a bit like my all-time favouriote Robert Johnson, who also died young. In Hank's case I don't think there's anyone, maybe aside from Chet Baker, who deserves the description "tortured genius" more. Williams literally drank himself to death aged just 28. He left a legacy of songs though that still get regul...more
Ken
This is a first rate, fast read, biography of one of the greatest Country Music talents that ever lived. Well told and honest, it's a sad tale. It begs the question that how far Hank Williams could have gone had he not been such a tormented soul. I've gone back and listened to his music with a fresh ear after reading this. There is no doubt that he was a man of immense talent that poured his heart into his music. Hemphill captures many aspects of his life that were previously unknown to me, His...more
Trevor
It's truly amazing that Hank's big-time career only lasted a mere 3 years, seven months until he died at the age of 29. He sold 10 million records during a time (early 1950s) where there was no record distribution to speak of, just selling records at shows and to businesses owning jukeboxes.

Paul Hemphill makes comparisons to Hank and Hemingway in the way that they were both minimalists in their writing. It's just that Hemingway was probably more aware of the literary device while Hank just wrot...more
Matthew
Entertaining, quick read...I do wish that music biographers brought a little insight into the stuff they write about. In the end, this is just a jaunty retelling of a broken man's life.
Peter
This was a really fascinating read on a fella that I didn't know much about prior-- but he certainly casts a long and lasting shadow over country music and the industry in general. He truly is a tragic figure, one that overcame incredible odds to be a wild success. Later, he became the archetype of the showbiz star who lost his moorings and was overcome by that success, leading to his undoing. Hemphill writes in such a way that puts you in the studio, in the backseat, in the honky tonks and livi...more
Corinne
Overall, I liked it. (I hope no one reading this book is unaware that Hank died young, because the author doesn't pull any spoiler punches. Oh, did I ruin that for you? Yep, Hank gave it up at 29.) Also, although I really liked the anecdotal style of most of the book, I think Hemphill has a little trouble doing explanatory bits...there were chunks I had to reread more than once to figure out where in time he was putting us. And, I give him credit for making Hank the complicated figure he was - n...more
Caroline
May 12, 2008 Caroline marked it as half-read-graveyard  ·  review of another edition
I approached Lovesick Blues like I approached the PBS series "The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson": I rode along for the rise, and then bowed out before the fall. I didn't know much about Hank Williams, which was an appalling state of affairs as I began writing a dissertation chapter about hillbilly music, so I listened to the first third of the book through my local library's online audio collection. I probably would have finished it, but the days got longer and I began itching for the great outd...more
J
Hank Williams had a rough life, man. His talent for songwriting and his high loansome moan are the most important and lasting legacy of his life and there's ample evidence in his recordings. His life, though, is interesting and tragic and Paul Hemphill has succeeded in giving a consice and fairly intimate introduction to Williams. The triumphs and every tragedy after tragedy are here, up to Williams' cold, lonely death on a West Virginia highway. Lovesick Blues is full of good stories and worth...more
Joshua
Talk about an upbeat book to read right before Thanksgiving! This biography of Hank Williams details all the troubles the singer had w/ drink, pills and women as he lived his short life. He wrote some amazing music that Hemphill ties into his lifestyle or personal life w/ all his addictions and behavior. I didn't know much about his upbringing or start out in country music so this was a good introduction to the man and that era of radio/country music and what it was like to be a musician.
Leslie
I read this book right before Paul Hemphill came to my library to promote this book. The book captures the spirit of Hank--how he grew up in Georgiana and then later made his way to Montgomery. He also pointed out things I hadn't thought about--that back then there were no tour buses or other accoutrements--you just traveled hours and hours in a car. I also liked how Hank's wife wanted to sing but that she had a terrible voice. If you're ever in Montgomery, you should stop by his gravesite.
Naomi Krokowski
This slim volume is rich in evocative language and gets at the importance of Hank's songwriting genius. I can't think of any other songwriter more quoted, covered, or revered by artists I adore than Hank. His singing is so full of longing and misery, and his deceptively simple imagery is so brilliant that I can't ever forget it. Hemphill's love for Hank is tempered by the needless waste if his brief life, and I loved finding out how his incredible songs came about. Astonishingly good.
Rich
This is a short biography of Hank Williams (sadly, his life didn't last long enough for a longer biography).

I thought that Hemphill did a great job telling the story of Williams' sad life, but my favorite chapter is the first, in which Hemphill describes a trip he took with his father, who was a trucker. The story of that trip (within which Williams' music played a key role) is quite vivid and evocative.
Wanda
Author Paul Hemphill's reminiscenses about listening to Hank Williams on his father's truck radio and narrator Jonathan Hogan's natural sounding down-homey drawl gave this biography a personal touch that made it seem like it was written by someone who knew Hank well. I downloaded the mp3 album Country Music Legend and listened to the tracks along with the audiobook. What a great mix!
james
This is a fine biography of country/western music composer Hank Williams, Sr, who was in the vanguard of modern country music. Hank was, to put it mildly, a tormented soul, who died at a young age. It's interesting to note that his life, usually turbulent, took a turn for stability and harmony for a period of 6 months during which he WROTE NO SONGS.
Sandi
Sad story. Such a talented man to have died at 29. If you are familiar with his music, his lyrics told the story of his life with Audrey. The book revealed medical issues which lead to drinking and meds that eventually ended his life in the back of a Cadillac.
He was the Elvis before Elvis. Women adored him. I enjoyed this book.
Randy Cox
This book completely changed the glamorous idea of Hank Williams that I had Conjured up in my mind. Paul Hemphill's Book Revealed Hank Williams to be a troubled young man who was rocketed to stardom, Plagued by insecurity, addiction, And the opposite sex. Hanks is definitely a life worth reading And this book is where you should start.
Lauri
I really enjoyed this. I knew nothing about Hank Williams other than having heard his songs played by others over the years. It is pretty amazing - he was so prolific and was really on the music scene for only about 5 years before his death in 1953. The book sent me to the library to listen to his greatest hits.
Kathrine
This is what I'm reading right now. I picked it up for 20 cents at a yard sale. It's a simply written biography by a man who remembered first listening to Williams as a child while riding in his father's truck.

I took it with me on a weekend getaway. Perfect vacation reading.
Jason
A good, solid bio, not too long or wordy (much like Hank's life)and it tells the story of one of the greatest songwriters in history in a totally readable fashion. A bio I thoroughly enjoyed reading, maybe because it's a lot easier reading about a life that rough than having to live it.
Joshua
An excellent short read on the life of one of the greats. I enjoy Hemphill's prose--he's written fiction, and you can tell that here. I've read some of Colin Escott (another Hank biographer); I personally prefer Hemphill's work, though Escott's book is surely more comprehensive.
Christy
Hank Williams is probably my favorite songwriter of all time. While I already knew quite a bit about his life, this book filled in much of the details for me. I read it in one day and wound up pretty depressed. What a waste!
Vanessa
This is the first biography I have ever read about Hank, so I appreciate the book for what it is. At times, however, the writing is fraught with cliches and seems a little thin. A pretty entertaining read, though.
Tyler
Not the most well written book I've ever read (and definitely not the worst), but worth a look. It is a quick read and gives a good overview of the brief and harsh life of Hank Williams, Sr. from birth to grave.
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Paul James Hemphill was an American journalist and author who wrote extensively about often-overlooked topics in the Southern United States such as country music, evangelism, football, stock car racing and the blue collar people he met on his journeys around the South.
More about Paul Hemphill...
Leaving Birmingham: Notes of a Native Son Long Gone The Nashville Sound The Heart Of The Game: The Education Of A Minor League Ballplayer The Ballad of Little River: A Tale of Race and Restless Youth in the Rural South

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