At Oxford American, David Ramsey writes a braided ode to the forever unknowable Hank Williams, a country music legend and violent drunk, who died of alcoholism in 1953, before he turned 30 years old.
But he did not live. And so he is ageless, of another time. Hank with his guitar in black-and-white photos. He was signed up to be a movie star by MGM but he no-showed and was canned. He remains pure, for the purists. He remains unknowable. Storytellers and historians hunt through old articles and radio promotional materials. They double check state records and rifle through legal proceedings and re-read the transcripts of interviews from decades past with anyone who might have crossed his path. They gather the whisper of facts and conjectures from the archives. But this was before we knew everything about everyone. This was before we’d figured out how to preserve and catalog every bit of data about every little thing. A legend forms when much is lost.
I am not here to knock down any statues, just here to tell you the truth, as best as I can make it out from an imperfect record: When the man who sang these songs lived, and started drinking to cool whatever deep harm was within him, he could be a monster.