I’m obviously talking about Hank Williams and Buddy Holly. Hank died at 29, Buddy at 23.
-Which of them do you think was the greater loss?
-Which would have had a greater legacy/influence on popular music had they lived longer?
-Which has had a greater influence on subsequent music?
-Can you name another 20th-21st century performer whom you think a greater early loss? Karen Carpenter or Sam Cooke at 33? Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix at 27?
Shame there are so damned many candidates to debate…
Buddy Holly by a longshot. He was very innovative and unique for his time. He experimented in multi-tracking and using orchestras. Hell just the fact that he wrote his own songs was innovative. I think he would have continued to grow and experiment.
Hank Sr would have continued to write and perform old school country songs.
Yeah, you’re probably right. My struggle may be that they are 2 of my all-time faves. Also that I play bass in a lot of bluegrass/Americana settings, where Hank’s influence is unavoidable.
Buddy gets a big leg up simply because of the Beatles. But I think an argument could be made that Hank was huge in transforming popular country music. I think it would be a close call to say which one’s songs are heard more today… You realize, of course, that Hank wrote a tune or 2…
Given Hank’s trajectory, I gotta imagine Buddy would have accomplished more and more, whereas it is harder to see Hank on anything other than a downward slide. Not sure if I should consider Hanks Jr and III plusses or minuses!
So do you think any other single musical artist was a greater early loss?
My first thought was Hank by a longshot. He’s central to Country music today and still very much a part of the discussion.
Buddy Holly was a favorite of many rockers in the generation right after him though, with an obvious one being Paul McCartney, who I am pretty sure now owns Holly’s catalogue. But Rock music has moved past the first-gen rockabilly rockers so Holly, Eddie Cochran and even Chuck Berry are not as prominent in the genre as Hank Williams still is in Country.
Just thinking out loud here. I am sure cases can be made in either direction.
In terms of which loses do I think we feel the most, I would look for artists who died young who appeared to have a lot of their career ahead of them. Jeff Buckley had one album out before he drowned but he was seen as a true artist. Eddie Cochran was a kid when he died in the crash in the UK that further injured Gene Vincent. Who knows was Eddie could’ve written after Summertime Blues, C’mon Everybody and Somethin’ Else?
Hendrix felt like he had a vast landscape in front of him. Jazz fusion was picking up in the early 70’s, along with funk and reggae.
I have to say, I am not sure Kurt Cobain had much runway in front of him. Wonderful melodies but the same word-salad lyrics trying to express his pain. I don’t know where he would’ve gone with that.
Right but would he be more so if he hadn’t died? That’s the question. Who was the greatest loss. What Hank did already made him central to a style of music. Buddy Holly showed at 23 a great potential for creativity. It’s possible that he would have kept writing versions of Peggy Sue and faded into obscurity. Or maybe he would have continued to grow and change. Hank didn’t seem to be moving towards anything different than he already did. No way of knowing but to answer the first and second question of the OP: Hank’s legacy and influence would be exactly the same if he had lived longer, Buddy’s influence and legacy had the potential of being much greater if he had lived.
When did I say he didn’t? Buddy Holly was playing during a time in which many acts were getting their songs feed to them from Brill Building writers and others. Elvis became the King with Lieber and Stoller songs. That sets him apart from many of his contemporaries. My statement in no way implied that he was totally unique as the only performer the wrote his own music. I certainly didn’t say that Hank Williams didn’t write his own music.
You said Buddy distinguished himself by writing his own songs, implying Hank didn’t, in this context. Otherwise you would have said Hank was a pioneer of self penned popular music way before buddy. An inspiration to Buddy, no doubt.
I think it’s a crosswise question due to the nature of the genres.
Hank is still influential in a genre - country - which focuses on roots and looking back. It’s a genre for an older scene in which adherence to tradition is seen as a positive.
Buddy Holly - while owning to some of the same traditions that Hank came out of (there’s a strong argument that early rockabilly/rock and roll is simply electrified country music) - is still part of a scene that was younger and therefore focused more on the new and the different and what’s next.
Hank, had he lived, would have produced fine songs for years but I doubt they’d have varied much because of his audience.
Buddy would more likely have experimented and found new things to catch his - and his audience’s - interest.
The real question is how well could Richie Valens(zuela) have integrated mexican founds and spanish into early rock music. It didn’t all have to be Carlos Santana, after all.
But Hank Williams was a huge crossover songwriter. He wrote songs that were huge pop hits by Tony Bennett and many others, creating a crossover trend in pop music for rootsy music that predated rock and roll. He wasn’t an ordinary country singer in the slightest. He was an inventor of the music that we know now and take for granted.
And I have always had questions about what Buddy Holly would have really done had he lived. It’s a longstanding rock critics opinion that he would have been something special, but it could have easily gone the other way. He might have become a nashville or easy listening producer etc, based on his records. You don’t know.
Buddy was part of a cadre of rock and rollers. But HW stood out alone in many ways.
[hijack] Boy, that guy was bursting with talent! Grace was a tour de force of a debut album and a great promise for the future, indeed it already sounded mature and perfected. Everything was intense yet tasteful, the writing, the performance, the choice of cover versions and the obvious influences, and on top of that he sang like Orpheus. I never came quite clear with his father’s output, though I SHOULD like him, but Jeff got me instantly. It’s a tragic story.[/hijack]
As for Hank vs. Buddy, I’m not really qualified to really access it because I think I haven’t dug deep enough in their output, but I know their most important works and agree with those who said that Hank had a bigger influence in country (and in rock) than Buddy Holly in rock, because you can easily name some of Holly’s peers who had a similar influence like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley etc., while for country, the only other figure with a similar status that comes to mind is Johnny Cash, and he arrived at the scene after Hank Williams left the stage and was himself influenced by him. But for what could have followed, Holly really could have made the more interesting career, just because his genre turned out to be the more innovative and flexible.
P.S.: I’m just listening to Jeff Buckley’s Grace (Deluxe Edition), and he’s covering Lost Highway, so there’s a connection to Hank Williams. Just to excuse my hijack above ;).