For many, music is the universal language that transcends the most common social barriers – harnessing the ability to bypass our complicated filters and drive directly to our soul.
The short and complicated life of Hank Williams not only produced a stunning amount of beloved music, but seemingly set the blueprint for the “live fast, die young” tortured musician.
Since his mysterious death in 1953, his influence on music and culture would only grow larger with each passing year – spawning tales as tall as the man himself.
Dr. Steve Goodson is the co-editor of The Hank Williams Reader. As the professor and chair of the History Department at the University of West Georgia, he’s also the author of Highbrows, Hillbillies, and Hellfire: Public Entertainment in Atlanta, 1880-1930 (2002), which won the Georgia Historical Society's Malcolm Bell, Jr. and Muriel Barrow Bell Award.
In Goodson's latest book, the extraordinary life of Williams is chronicled through a series of excerpts and memories written by journalists, family and friends, musical contemporaries, biographers, historians and scholars, ordinary fans and novelists.
Through his work, Goodson encountered fans from all walks of life – all connected by their love for Williams. One afternoon, he was greeted by an elderly man who tracked him down to his office at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton.
In his arms was a stack of old magazines and worn records, all about Williams. He presented the treasure trove of memorabilia to Goodson, claiming that no one else in his family would appreciate it.
“It’s fascinating how music connects people,” Goodson said. “We’ve been trying to do the same thing, which is connecting our school and community together with this kind of program."
Goodson hopes to bring the legend of Williams even closer by hosting “The Life and Times of Hank Williams” – an evening of readings and songs celebrating Williams – at the Wadsworth Auditorium.
Along with a collection of vintage recordings and videos of Williams, excerpts from the book will be read along with a live performance by Daniel Williams and his Driftin’ Poboys Band.
Last September, a similar event was held in Carrollton with more than 230 people attending, according to Goodson. The success spurred the idea of creating an annual series – “Icons of Southern Music” – which will chronicle the life of Johnny Cash in 2017.
“We’re really excited to bring this to Newnan and can’t think of a better way to celebrate the legacy of Hank Williams,” Goodson said. “And we’re still getting compliments on the Driftin’ Poboys Band…”
The Newnan Coweta Historical Society will host the event at the Wadsworth Auditorium on Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at several downtown Newnan locations including the Male Academy Museum, The McRitchie-Hollis Museum, Let Them Eat Toffee and Grannie Fannie’s Antiques.