Several weeks ago, I listened to a weekly public radio show on creativity called The Spark, on WMRA. Martha Woodroof, the program’s host, read an essay she wrote, titled “The Great Hank Williams Died Here. So Drunk.” Another version of the story was in an article she had written that was published in the New York Times Magazine in 2010, “Sharing Demons with Hank Williams.”
Martha and her husband purposely stopped in Oak Hill, West Virginia, while on a road trip. Her previous research had shown this town to be where 29-year-old Hank Williams was found dead in the back seat of his powder blue Cadillac on New Year’s Day, 1953. Martha reflected on a period in her own life that connected her with an appreciation for the stories Hank told in his songs.
I sat quietly for some moments after listening to the brief and compelling essay. I was transported to the age of three, the summer before Hank’s death. I could see and feel myself dancing among sunbeams while gazing at the oak floor of my family’s small dining room. I moved to the rhythm of my mama’s voice blending with a catchy tune from the kitchen radio. She was accompanying Hank Williams’ recording of “Hey, Good Lookin’.” Her mood felt contagious as she bounced to the bass beat while dusting furniture.
I recall attempting to sing the song minutes later, and Mommy taking a break in cleaning to teach me some of the words as we made up our own dance. “Say hey, good lookin’. What ya got cookin’? Hows about cookin’ somethin’ up with me?”
Most times, it is when I hear the melody and/or lyrics of a song that bring memories sweeping back. This time, hearing about the recording artist was the bridge to remembering one of his songs and some playful moments with my mother.
Is there a memory that has been evoked for you through music? What happens when you hear a song that you liked in your teen years?
If you are a musician, what do you notice when you play a favorite piece you haven’t touched for a long time?
What types of music have brightened your mood in the past? What makes your toes tap and your whole being feel like dancing?