Hank Williams Jr. songs range from tender ballads in the vein of his father’s hits to rowdy party anthems more akin to the music of his Southern rock pals.
The living outlaw and party starter’s musical career spans a staggering 60 years. His early days highlighted a gifted young country singer with an ear for the classics. Williams reinvented himself in the mid 70s, becoming the hard living, honky tonkin’ outlaw behind some endearingly self-aware anthems about his own public image. Hank’s son was born to boogie in bold new ways, adding relevance to the family name.
The following ten Hank Williams Jr. songs rank among his best. Most are obvious picks, but they are some of his most famous songs for good reason.
“Attitude Adjustment” (1984)
Few songs by any country artist about hard living going hilariously wrong are this funny or memorable. Plus it’s a chance to hear Williams’ stab at being a barrel house blues man. If you listen to Bocephus for a little rowdy fun, start with this corker.
“Man of Steel” (1983)
Williams Jr. sings of lacking a real family support system in this moving look behind a man’s rough exterior. The hardened outlaw admits to having the lonesome blues over outliving and outlasting loved ones and lovers. It’s a tragic story that’s sadly relatable to people from all walks of life.
“Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” (1979)
While most of Williams’ better-known songs celebrate partying to some extent, this classic surveys the waste after the good times end. Country songs about the intersection of heartbreak and hard living are a dime a dozen, but few of those dimers are phrased quite this effectively.
Williams’ answer to the folk storytelling of John Denver ranks among his less obvious must-hear songs. It stands among Bocephus’ greatest vocal performances and deserves way more recognition among 70s country deep cuts. It’s also from a consistently great album, One Night Stands.
“It’s All Over But The Crying” (1968)
Long before his fascination with hanging around Southern rockers and living like the Devil, Williams presented himself as a more traditional country crooner. This seminal early cut ranks among the best examples that, beyond the “If the South Woulda Won” bravado, the second generation star can really sing.
“The Conversation” (1983)
Williams’ duet with Waylon Jennings remains his best celebration of his famous father’s troubled life and storied music. It captures the rational middle ground between craziness and sainthood for perhaps the greatest country music legend of them all.
“If Heaven Ain’t A Lot Like Dixie” (1982)
Williams’ iconic celebration of his Alabama abode gave new life to some old country song tropes. Pride in place, be it a home state or the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, returned to the mainstream with this love song for the New South. Of all of Junior’s best songs, it’s easiest to imagine this throwback as an alternate timeline hit for his father.
“Family Tradition” (1979)
Ole Bocephus’ bold statement of independence from the expectations that weighed on a famous country singer’s son took on a life of its own. Few songs from the past 40 years have inspired more honky tonk bar or fraternity house sing-alongs than this undeniably catchy slice of outlaw country music.
“All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” (1984) and the Unofficial Trilogy of Great Hank Williams Jr. Songs
The music video, featuring every awesome person from Jim Varney to George Jones, adds even more charm to one of Hank Jr.’s greatest anthems about raising hell. Consider also that the song turned into a trilogy. The equally tongue-in-cheek “All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)” laments growing older and abandoning old habits, while the bombastic “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here For Monday Night” continues quenching those early week blues for Monday Night Football viewers.
“A Country Boy Can Survive” (1982)
The most memorable Hank Jr. song evokes more than just bar room sing-alongs. It’s a story of the tough as nails living that comes with rural life. The song took new meaning in 2002 with Williams’ touching post-9/11 revision, “America Will Survive.”
Honorable mentions: “Outlaw Women,” “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” “Good Friends, Good Whiskey, Good Lovin’,” “Long Gone Lonesome Blues,” “127 Rose Avenue,” “Wham, Bam, Sam,” “Montana Cafe,” “Texas Women,” “This Ain’t Dallas,” “Daytona Nights,” “Hotel Whiskey,” “Country State of Mind,” “Major Moves“