Monday, July 19, 2010

HANK COCHRAN Falls to Pieces and Makes the World Go Away

Patsy Cline couldn't have fallen to pieces without Hank Cochran.
Eddy Arnold couldn't have made the world go away without Hank, either.
And Burl Ives could not have shed that "bitty tear" or found a "funny way of laughing'" without Hank.

As you're astute enough to realize by now, Hank Cochran was a songwriter, and he died.

But not before Elvis Costello, Merle Haggard and many others threw him a great party last year. And we'll get to that party in just a minute. First, a look back...

Garland Cochran (August 2, 1935 – July 15, 2010) grew up in orphanages after his parents split, and lived for a while in Mississippi. At 12, he was hard at work drilling oil wells with his uncle. Still in his teens, he formed a duo called "The Cochran Brothers." His partner, Eddie Cochran, was not actually his brother. Eddie was also more interested in rock than rockabilly.

By 1960, Eddie Cochran was a star, albeit a dead one (car accident) and Hank was in Nashville, working as a songwriter along with a fellow named Willie Nelson. Willie wrote "Crazy" for Patsy Cline. And Hank? With Harlan Howard he co-wrote "I Fall To Pieces," which became his first success. Back then, a songwriter could earn very good money with royalties, and when he got a check for $11,000, he found it "mind-boggling."

He handed Patsy two more Top Ten songs: "She's Got You" in 1961 and "Why Can't He Be You" in 1962. His"Make the World Go Away" was a success two years in a row, first on the country charts for Ray Price in 1963 and then for Eddy Arnold in 1964 who also crossed it into the pop charts.

Hank's modest career as a singer never amounted to much, although "Sally Was a Good Old Girl" reached #20 on the country charts in 1962, and he did make some albums. As a favor to a longtime friend, Willie Nelson joined Hank for a cover version of "A Little Bitty Tear," which was the last time Hank made the Top 100. Even with Willie in on the session, the song only reached #57. While his biggest smashes were in the early 60's, he still could write a chart-topper, including the enduring and well-covered "Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurtin' Me," which hit #1 via Ronnie Milsap's version in 1989.

Cochran had almost as many wives as he had #1 hits (five of them) but managed to stay married to the last one for the past 28 years. He also managed to find country singers to record his songs in the 70's, 80's and beyond, and you can sample them in the download file below (along with a few by Hank himself). In 2002 he released "Livin' For a Song: A Songwriter's Autobiography."

Two years ago Hank underwent surgery to remove cancerous tumors from his pancreas. His internal problems increased over the years, leading insiders to expect the worst each time he needed to be hospitalized. Fortunately in June of 2009, Merle Haggard hosted a celebration for him, quipping "You know you're a brilliant songwriter when your ex shows up at your celebration!" He was referring to Jeannie Seely. Merle sang seven songs, and he was joined by Elvis Costello, Bobby Bare, Cowboy Jack Clement, Lee Ann Womack, Gene Watson and even the president and CEO of BMI, Del Bryant. They honored their favorite tunes, and of course, his.

Of his favorite tune, "Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurtin' Me," (which nobody got tired of covering), he recalled, "People study songs and go over them and all that...and they tell me that's one of the most well-written songs, but that has nothing to do with why it's my favorite. It's my favorite because it can still cut me up just like the day I wrote it."

Hank wrote "Don't Touch Me" (Etta James), "I Fall To Pieces" (Patti Page), A Little Bitty Tear and Funny Way of Laughin' (Burl Ives), "That's All that Matters" (Mickey Gilley), "Would These Arms Be In Your Way" (Keith Whitley), "Can I Sleep In Your Arms Tonight Mister" (Jeannie Selly), plus George Jones, Eddy Arnold and more...

Below's a threesome of "Ain't Life Hell," "Same Old Hurt" and "If She Could See Me Now," the first with Willie Nelson, the last two by Hank his own self.


No comments: