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

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  173 ratings  ·  34 reviews

A heartbreaking and unforgettable portrait of country music’s founding father.

After he died in the backseat of a Cadillac at the age of twenty-nine, Hank Williams?a frail, flawed man who had become country music’s most compelling and popular star?instantly morphed into its first tragic martyr. Having hit the heights in the postwar era with simple songs of heartache and sta

Kindle Edition, 493 pages
Published November 22nd 2016 by Liveright
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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Douglas Fugate
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Here is the latest (and possibly most complete) biography of Hank Williams.

Watch this poor boy from south Alabama rise to conquer Nashville and influence both country and pop music. Read of the “no-holds-barred” episodes of Hank’s life from birth, as a teen-age singer, through his marriages, his illnesses and addictions. Understand what drove him to music heights and ultimately drove him to his early death.

Throughout are the stories of the songs – both written and sung. Witness how Hank gains i
Chi Chi
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Ribowsky puts too much personal opinion into the book, especially when it comes to the women in Williams life.
Annie Booker
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read about a man who had heaps of talent and unfortunately a heap of demons as well. He died way too young at just 29 but he shaped the world of country music like no one had really done before.
Apr 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, music
Sometimes you can know too much about your heroes. This book is a long, detailed, unrelenting unveiling of the sad and sordid life of Hank Williams. I would have liked more about the music and less about the drink, the affairs, the lies, the lawsuits. I still want to play the music, but it’s no thanks to this long, sad expose of human frailties.

Deb Harris
Feb 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
I grew up with classic country & love Hank's songs. I wanted to love this book but couldn't. Another author might be able to tighten up the material & cut a lot of filler. I gave up about half way through, I was just too frustrated with the writing. ...more
Jan 01, 2017 marked it as abandoned
Sigh. I wanted to love this biography, but I just couldn't. The author seemed to prize folksy phrases over actual research, and the whole thing felt more like a summary of serious biographies than an actual serious biography. I'm cutting my losses after 50 pages and will finally make time for the Colin Escott bio.
Edward Sullivan
Not a fan of the author's penchant for folksy expressions but this is an informative, insightful, and complete warts-and-all portrait of the deeply troubled but remarkably successful and influential musician.
Bill reilly
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Before reading “Hank,” I listened to a CD from my collection, “Timeless,” a Hank Williams album of covers by Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Keb Mo, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, and others. I also played some of Hank’s original versions. Hiram Williams sounds wrong, but it was Hank’s birth name. His father Lon worked lumber jobs and his mother Millie played the organ at a local Baptist church. As a young boy, Hank played the harmonica. Jimmie Rodgers had the first million selling record in the late ...more
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this book because Hank Williams was an intriguing and enigmatic figure that I wanted to know more about. I'm not a fan in particular of either his music or his genre in general. I enjoy some of it, but mostly I just appreciate its place in our culture. Country music is certainly big in these parts, the prairies of Western Canada, and I grew up around it. The ghost of Hank Williams was always hovering somewhere in the background, barely noticed but always there.

I've read some comments about
Jeff Campbell
May 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: music, biography
The book is filled with factual errors. For a sample, look no further than consecutive paragraphs on pages 16-17 in the hardback edition which first state that the first million selling country single was Jimmie Rodgers' Waitin' For A Train and then states that Lovesick Blues was written by Riley Puckett. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of country music history knows that the first million selling country song was Veron Dalhart's Wreck Of The 'Ol 97 bw The Prisoner's Song in 1924. And a ...more
Patricia Atkinson
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have grown up with hank Williams my whole life my dad met him before he died and every new years he would play hank all day my daughter is still a huge fan...this book explains so much about hanks life and what he went through with his mother Lillie and audry fighting all the time to see who would get more money..hanks mother got 80 percent of every show he did... and when he started out he got 2 cents for every record that was sold..he only recorded 2 records before he died and the rest were ...more
Louise Yarnall
Feb 07, 2019 rated it liked it
The Hank Williams who emerges in this biography is a gun-toting, violent alcoholic and drug addict, a music promoter’s nightmare, a philanderer, and a deadbeat dad. He also draws some sympathy for suffering from chronic back pain and unending torment inflicted by his domineering and manipulative mother and first wife. Despite these negatives—his raw talent shines through as a hillbilly singer, clever wordsmith, and pure workhorse performer, ever beloved by his fans. This is a tough read. About t ...more
Rick Bayko
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a strange alchemy it was that turned a poor Alabama hillbilly who drank to excess from a young age and read comic books to get songwriting ideas into one of the most gifted songwriters ever. His physical life lasted less than 30 years, most of it in bodily and emotional pain, yet his heartfelt songs endure and most likely always will. While his flaws were many, and this biography pulls no punches, his songs tell truths poignantly and simply in a way that few others have matched. A story wor ...more
Joab Jackson
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Hank Williams was a naturally gifted entertainer. Even with only modest singing skills, he had songwriting chops, confidence and stage presence to spare. Winning over an audience was not a problem for ole Hank. Everything else about his life was the problem.

Through the late 1940s, and early 1950s, Williams charted dozens of top 10 songs on the country chart, just as the music was starting to be appreciated outside of its hillbilly roots. He did this without sacrificing his 'white-trash' country
Jason Dikes
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
The first major biography on Hank in 20 years. Not a whole lot of new information is here but if you've never read a book on Hank Williams, this is an acceptable one to read. One thing I did like was that the author did not get bogged down in the various contradicting timelines about Hank's death.
Brett buckner
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A heartbreaking story of the man who defined country music and the myth of ho continues to haunt the genre to this day. Ol’ Hank has his demons, and they turned him into an old man well before his time, but there’s no doubt that he became more of a commodity than a person to those who were supposed to love and protect him.
Shirley Yant
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
He was a very talented man but very disturbed. He wrote music better than he sang.
James Shaw Jr.
Feb 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Very thorough examination of his short life with attention given to separating fact from legend, and a very detailed picture of what a mess his life was.
Nelda Basenberg
Oct 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Do not waste your time on this book, all he does is try to make Hank look bad and use a lot of words doing it.
Sadie Forsythe
I have donated this to my local Little Free Library. I hope it falls into the hands of someone who will love it.
Al Berry
Nov 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
I couldn’t really get into the book, a New Yorker writing about Hank is probably the wrong person to tackle the subject.
Mar 13, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-new
Sean Owen
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it
If you're a Hank or country music fanatic this probably isn't the biography for you. However if you've enjoyed the man's music, heard a bit about his tragic story and wondered a bit more than this is pretty good place to start. Ribowsky gives the Hank story from the beginning to the end and explains where he fits into the larger story of the rise of country music in America. It's truly a tragic story. From an early age Hank was out hitting the road and playing nearly anywhere that would have him ...more
Samantha York
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Well-written, with attributions wherever possible and a strong narrative. Enough background is provided to make sense of Hank's part of the story, but the author never loses track of the narrative. Great read.
Sandra Ross
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I like Hank's music a lot. It reaches somewhere deep inside you, reminding you of the fragility of the heart and of life itself.

Hank the man, however, was a train wreck almost from the beginning. And that is what makes reading this book difficult because you've got a front row seat to his self-destructive behavior and his eventual falling completely off the cliff, months before he actually died.

It's painful thing to be a witness to, not only because Hank seemed to just be one of those people who
Robin Cloxton
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of the saddest books I have ever read. Well written, but a very sad life.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
Not knowing much about Hank Williams' life, I picked this book up in the new book section at the library. What a hackneyed, shoddy excuse for a book. I don't need to read another (since even this piece of drivel made it clear that Hank's life lurched from one drunk episode to another) but if you are looking for a bio on Hank, find another. I should have guessed at the quality of the book when the back cover include a long paragraph from its own introduction!
Jill Meyer
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
The life, times, and after-times of Alabama-born and raised singer Hank Williams are well documented in Mark Ribowsky's new biography, "Hank: The Short Life and Long Country Road of Hank Williams". Williams led a life that perhaps could have made several songs legend, suffered from ill health, poverty, drug and alcohol addictions, and most of all, venal and incompetent family members and associates who surrounded and influenced him in life, and after death.

Born of a grasping mother and an impair
Bobby Jett
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent read on one of the most gifted song writers and singers ever to grace the music scene. Like so many artists, the fact that he lived the lyrics he sang about was undoubtedly the reason his music reaches deep into our souls and moves us on such emotional levels. Dying at a very old 29 years of age, Hank was tormented, lonely, and so very much alone. A heartbreaking in depth look at the man behind the lyrics.
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, what a read this was. What a tough life he had, although he didn't do anything to make it any easier on himself. Full review coming soon. But if you're at all interested in his life and times, this is a must read.
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Mark Ribowsky is the author of seven books, including the New York Times Notable Book Don't Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball. He lives in Plainview, New York.

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