Picks and Pans Review: Your Cheatin' Heart

updated 04/13/1981 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/13/1981 01:00AM

by Chet Flippo

When Hank Williams died at 29 from heart failure brought on by a mixture of booze and drugs, little was known about his fiercely guarded private life except the hints coming through in his mournful country songs. Flippo, a Rolling Stone contributing editor, has managed to put flesh and blood on the sturdy bones of the Williams legend. Written in a compelling novelistic style—there's considerable reconstruction of events and dialogue—this portrait depicts a friendless loner driven into early alcoholism and drug addiction. His tempestuous marriage to his first wife, Audrey, who sang for Hank's original band, seems to have inspired much of his misery and his music. Yet Williams also suffered from a spinal birth defect, a form of spina bifida, that nearly drove him mad with pain. Police and medical records, family diaries, royalty statements, home movies and the recollections of dozens who knew Williams helped Flippo reconstruct the singer's rise from poor white trash in Alabama. Though Hank's sin-and-suffer life produced memorable music and enduring fame, it cheated him of the years to enjoy it. (Simon and Schuster, $13.95)

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