Hank Williams represents a lot of things in music history. Primarily, he's a revered songwriter, lauded for his musically simple yet lyrically rich compositions. Those songs behind the man and myth landed Williams in both the rock and country halls of fame for a reason. By blending three simple chords with stories about the complexities of the human condition, he showed generations of popular music artists how to connect with listeners on an emotional level.
Beyond hall of fame memberships, there are more recent receipts to prove Williams' impact spread well beyond country music. The following eight examples barely scrape the surface of cover songs and tributes out there. Consider this variety platter, featuring everything from jazz to metal, an entry point to the wide and sometimes obnoxious world of cross-genre Hank Sr. covers.
"Your Cheatin' Heart," James Brown
Both country and soul singers secularized the music of rural churches. In this case, Brown flips to the country section of the hymnal, singing Williams' parting statement without downplaying his rightful reign over soul.
"Lost Highway," Jeff Buckley
Every sad guy with a guitar owes a debt of gratitude to Williams, including the late Jeff Buckley. During the same time frame as his legendary Grace album, Buckley put his own melancholy spin on this Leon Payne original.
"Still In Love," Cat Power
Instead of playing up her folksy side, Atlanta-born indie rocker Cat Power took Williams' heartbreaking "Still In Love" and made it sound more like a Velvet Underground deep cut than a country classic.
"Why Don't You Love Me," Red Hot Chili Peppers
Of all of these songs, this one sounds the most like a parody. Not of Hank or country music, but of RHCP's own funked-up sound. To be fair, it's probably supposed to be obnoxious.
"Cold Cold Heart," Norah Jones
When she digs down to her jazz roots, Jones can make excerpts from the phone book, to say nothing of one of the best-written Williams songs, sound classy.
"Hey Good Lookin'," The Residents
Y'all will either love or loathe this one. Avant-garde rockers The Residents released a tribute album to Williams and composer John Phillip Sousa back in 1986. This and other selections from the album sound more genuine than the Chili Peppers' cover yet no less weird.
"Alone And Forsaken," Social Distortion
"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," Volbeat
The dreary lyrics of this Hank Sr. classic suits Volbeat, a Danish metal band with an appreciation of rockabilly and other Southern-born rock and country offshoots.
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