Certain musical artists—Sinatra, Cole Porter, Charlie Parker—never lose their relevance or their resonance. Country music's timeless prince has always been Hank Williams, and this illuminating 200-page book, jammed with 300 photos, goes far in celebrating his extraordinary but tragically brief life.
Born in Mount Olive West, Ala., in 1923, Williams, driven by an ambitious mother and an even more ambitious first wife, was country's original crossover star. Debilitated by alcoholism, Williams died under still mysterious circumstances while being driven to a gig in Canton, Ohio, on Jan. 1, 1953. He was 29.
This is a mountain of material, much of it previously unpublished, including hand-scrawled lyrics of 30 unpublished original Williams songs. There are poignant letters to Williams from his publisher and producer Fred Rose that beg him to stop drinking, and the photos, many of them snapshots, are a revelation. The images are often murky, but that is the price of being able to find out so much more about this troubled trailblazer. (Da Capo Press, $35)
Bottom Line: Engrossing celebration of Nashville's Gershwin