Honoring Traditional Country Music

Yah! Today is a good day for the recognition and preservation of traditional country music. Below is an article found on CMT.com. Anytime the history of country music is remembered and awarded is a good day, overall, for the genre:

Hank Williams is being posthumously awarded a special citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board. The honor was revealed Monday (April 12) in conjunction with the announcement of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize recipients in journalism, drama and music. The citation was determined following a private survey among experts of popular music. It notes Williams’ “craftsmanship as a songwriter” and his “pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force.” Williams died in 1953 at age 29. His songs have been recorded by hundreds of artists in a variety of genres. In recent years, the board has awarded several other special citations in music to Bob Dylan and jazz legends Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane.
Here is what Jim Fusilli had to say in an article posted April 14 in the Wall Street Journal :

By awarding Hank Williams a posthumous Special Citation, the Pulitzer Prize Board not only honors the singer-songwriter, but acknowledges the importance of traditional country music to contemporary American culture.

In Monday’s announcement, Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, said, “The citation, above all, recognizes the lasting impact of Williams as a creative force that influenced a wide range of other musicians and performers.” The Pulitzer board put particular emphasis on William’s gifts as a composer, praising him for “his craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life.”

No one who feels the power of a well-crafted song could quarrel with the Pulitzer board’s sentiment. In his lyrics, Williams, who died in 1953 at age 29, often combined a commercial sensibility with an understanding of human emotion, particularly heartache and loneliness. While his best-known pop tunes “Hey Good Lookin’” and “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” are often rendered as lighthearted country-pop fare, Williams also wrote of the despair of the broken-hearted: “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You),” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “You Win Again” and “Cold, Cold Heart” have been covered by scores of country, pop, blues and rock artists. Even his breeziest tunes like “Why Don’t You Love Me,” in which the singer laments, with a well-paced vocal hiccup, he “ain’t had no lovin’ like a huggin’ and a kissin’ in a long, long while,” Williams crafts the kind of plainspeak lyric that reveals his insight into the guilt that comes with some relationships: “I’m the same old trouble that you’ve always been through.”

Williams also wrote the country-gospel classic “I Saw the Light” and the rock-blues chestnut “Move it On Over.” No doubt, the titles alone bring to mind for fans of American popular music evoke performances of Williams’ songs. With his numerous contributions to the Great American Songbook, Williams serves as the bridge between traditional American folk music with roots in the South and the work of Bob Dylan, who earned a special citation from the Pulitzer board in 2008. (Other recipients of the citation include Thelonious Monk in ’06 and John Coltrane in ’07.)

The acknowledgement of Williams comes at a time when country music seems under assault from within, as its biggest stars promote glossy, cookie-cutter hybrid that owes more to pop than acoustic country and its writers have reduced to a litany of well-worn clichés the kind of lyrical insight Williams displayed. Though Williams was a star in his day who understood the power of image, at the core of his work was his ability to write and sing lines that resonated not only in the mind but deep in the heart of his listeners – which is why his songs so easily cross genres for other performers: His words speak of what we know to be true.


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